Friday afternoon, it was revealed that Daniel “6ix9ine” Hernandez pleaded guilty in the federal racketeering case against him, and that he was cooperating against people who were (until recently) his co-defendants. The news was sudden and shocking. 6ix9ine’s on-and-off lawyer Lance Lazzaro had repeatedly professed his client’s innocence, after all.
But as someone who has followed the case closely, once the initial shock wore off, things began to make sense to me. In 6ix9ine’s January 22 court hearing, which we now know was just one day prior to him pleading guilty, the rapper heard about the voluminous evidence the government had: social media posts, phone recordings (including some from behind bars), emails, recordings from a confidential informant, wiretaps, and much more.
6ix9ine was already physically separated from the rest of the defendants at hearings for the case—presumably because some of them were on tape making threats against him after the rapper had fired almost everyone around him, in what now appears to be a desperate attempt to stave off legal trouble. So with all that, it seems there was little reason to tie his fate to a group of much older co-defendants, many of whom already hated him.
So what, exactly, did 6ix9ine cop to? The final list of charges reveals a number of elements that are both specific to the rapper, and also meant to help the government in its ongoing case against his 10 co-defendants, including 6ix9ine’s former manager Kifano “Shotti” Jordan and former Byrdgang member Jamel “Mel Murda” Jones, Jordan’s longtime friend.
One of the most important parts of the guilty plea comes right up front: 6ix9ine admits to being a “member” or “associate” of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods, which he agrees is a “criminal organization.” This is at the center of the government’s case: Because Nine Trey is a criminal organization, people who participate in it are responsible for the group’s wrongdoing, whether or not they directly took part.
When it comes to specifics, 6ix9ine admitted to being involved in three violent incidents, all in or near Times Square. There was one on March 20, 2018, where he “helped members of Nine Trey attempt to kill a rival gang member.”
Second, he admitted that he “participated in a gunpoint robbery of rivals of Nine Trey” on April 3. This was no surprise, as there were media reports of photos of this incident, and prosecutors said that 6ix9ine actually filmed the robbery himself. Also, proceeds from the robbery (most notably a backpack belonging to the rapper’s former friend Scumlord Dizzy) were recovered in 6ix9ine’s apartment.
Third is the Chief Keef incident. On June 2, someone shot at Keef while he was out in front of NYC’s W Hotel. Because this occurred right in the middle of the beef between Keef and 6ix9ine, suspicion naturally fell on the rainbow-haired rapper and his crew. Now, it turns out that suspicion was right on. 6ix9ine admitted that he had “aided and abetted the shooting of rivals” at a time and location—June 2 at “a hotel in Times Square in Manhattan, New York”—that match exactly the Keef shooting, though Keef’s name is not mentioned in the plea. Rap fans will remember, of course, when 6ix9ine put a “30 pack” on Keef’s cousin Tadoe.
There’s a drug charge as well, specifically centering around his plan to sell a kilogram of heroin (or, as the plea artfully puts it, “mixtures and substances containing a detectable amount of heroin.”)
The 22-year-old artist faces a minimum of 47 years behind bars as of right now, but it seems likely he’ll get less in exchange for his cooperation with the government. It also means that 6ix9ine is responsible only for what Nine Trey did from when he met them in 2017, up until his arrest in 2018. The remaining defendants in the case of US v. Jones et al will face the results of an investigation that dates to years before, starting in 2013.
Lawyerly protestations aside, in many ways, it always seemed like the whole situation would end this way. 6ix9ine broke from his Nine Trey affiliates in such a public way (during an interview with the Breakfast Club) that it was unlikely he would want to legally tie his fate to theirs. The “Gummo” rapper was facing a whole slew of difficulties if he went to trial. There was voluminous evidence against him. There was the fact that he would be held accountable for actions that took place years before he met anyone involved in Nine Trey. His co-defendants were hostile enough that he had to be physically separated from them in court. He would almost certainly be held in prison up until the trial began in September. He was facing a potential life sentence. Worst of all, his opponents have a 93% conviction rate. Given all of that, it isn’t surprising that 6ix9ine would take what is presumably the best deal offered.
Much remains to be resolved in this case. What will happen to the other co-defendants? What is the exact sentence 6ix9ine will receive? Who else will get swept up in the government’s case? But we now know, at least, that Daniel Hernandez made what he surely viewed as the best of many bad choices.
This latest development could mark the end of one of the most rapid and dizzying ascents in the history of rap. 6ix9ine didn’t even perform live until late April, 2017 (you can see footage of his very first concert here). His breakout song “Gummo” was released that October. He had a slew of Billboard hits, and an equally long string of beefs. And, of course, his entire run was shrouded by the public exposure of his 2015 guilty plea to using a child in a sexual performance (and a number of additional legal issues besides). In his statement to a detective in that same 2015 case, he gave a short self-definition that set the stage for everything to come: Everything he did, much of which he admitted “is just for shock value,” was in service of a greater vision.
“MY BIRTHDAY IS MAY 8, 1996,” he said. “I LIVE AT [REDACTED] WITH MY MOTHER AND BROTHER. I AM AN ARTIST.”