4. The United States v. Clifford Harris (2007)
Crime: Possession of Three Unregistered Machine Guns and Two Silencers, Possession of Firearms By a Convicted Felon
Sentence: Served one year and one day at Forrest City Correctional Facility in Arkansas.
T.I. had dealt with his fair share of legal issues in the past, but by 2006, he seemed on top of the world. His most recent record, King, went gold in under a week, its primary single “What You Know” had become a U.S. hit, and he starred in the film ATL that same year. But on May 3, less than two months after the release of King, T.I.P. and his entourage were followed after leaving a club in Cincinatti.
Hosea Thomas, in a car driven by his brother Padron Thomas—who would later testify against his brother in exchange for a lesser sentence—followed the crew and fired into their van, fatally shooting one of T.I.’s oldest friends, Philant Johnson. T.I. later testified that he believed the bullets were intended for him. The events that followed, according to T.I., were a direct result of this event.
On October 13, 2007, T.I. was scheduled to perform at the BET awards; he had been nominated for nine, including album of the year. Instead of performing, he was arrested after getting caught in a sting orchestrated by the ATF. T.I. paid $12,000 for three machine guns and two silencers through his bodyguard, who had become an informant.
When law enforcement officers searched his home and vehicles, they found nine guns, including three in his car alone. As a felon—he was arrested in 1998 on drug charges—T.I. was not legally allowed to possess any firearms. He initially pled not guilty and was placed on house arrest, but pled guilty in March 2008.
Facing 10 years if convicted, T.I. instead managed to serve only one year and a day in prison in conjunction with nearly 1500 hours of community service.