33-year old Brandon Duncan, otherwise known as aspiring rapper Tiny Doo, is a suspected member of a San Diego street gang that recently was involved in 9 shootings. The speculation is based on his lyrics and social media photos of him with the other suspected gang members involved in the shooting. He just released an album, No Safety, which has a gun and ammunition on the front cover. The lyrics are violent, full of obscenities, and are debatably filled with content that may incite violence from others raised in “street life.”
Duncan was arrested along with 13 other men and charged with attempted murder in association with the recent shooting spree. The District Attorney’s Office agrees that he was not directly involved in any way. So why is he being charged? Prosecutors say that his album allowed him to gain street cred that would promote his album because of the gang shootings.
The legal definition of a gang member per California State Statute 182.5 is “any person who actively participates in any criminal street gang, as defined in subdivision (f) of Section 186.22, with knowledge that its members engage in or have engaged in a pattern of criminal gang activity, as defined in subdivision (e) of Section 186.22, and who willfully promotes, furthers, assists, or benefits from any felonious criminal conduct by members of that gang is guilty of conspiracy to commit that felony and may be punished as specified in subdivision (a) of Section 182.”
This law was voted into effect 14 years ago. Essentially, the above law states that gang members can be prosecuted for any crimes committed by other gang members if they receive a benefit from those crimes. The prosecuting attorney states that Duncan will benefit from the shootings because it gives his gang “street cred” which will allow him to sell more albums. All the extra publicity now about his arrest certainly won’t hurt either.
Duncan does not have a previous criminal record. He was charged in 2008 with pimping and pandering but the charges were later dropped. Bryan Watkins, Duncan’s attorney, says that the 2000 law is unconstitutional, and denies that Duncan’s album promotes violence. Watkins said, “It’s no different than Snoop Dog or Tupac … if we are trying to criminalize artistic expression, what’s next? Brian DePalma and Al Pacino?”
The San Diego County Superior Court disagreed with Watkins and demanded that Duncan stand trail along with the other defendants in the case. His trial will begin December 4. If Duncan is convicted he could spend the rest of his life in prison. He is currently being held on a $1 million bail. The State will have to prove that Duncan is indeed a member of the Lincoln Street gang in order to get a conviction.
Prosecutors have previously tried to prove involvement in a crime using rap lyrics. Torrence Hatch was charged with first degree murder in May 2012 even though there was not any physical evidence to link him to the crime scene. Prosecutors attempted to use Hatch’s rap lyrics to prove that he was involved in the shooting death of Terry Boyd. The jury returned a not-guilty verdict. Snoop Dog, Beanie Sigel, and B.G. are all high-profile rappers who have also been accused in the past of crimes because of their rap lyrics.