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Tekashi 6ix9ine’s alleged kidnapping is now even more complicated—at least according to Deveraux Cannick.
Cannick, the lead attorney for Anthony Ellison, one of the defendants in the Nine Trey racketeering trial, gave his closing argument on Thursday in Manhattan’s Thurgood Marshall Courthouse. The lawyer spent his last words to the jury explaining how his client, accused of kidnapping and robbing the “Gummo” rapper in the early morning hours of July 22, 2018, didn’t actually do it.
Cannick had long made it clear that he thought the kidnapping was staged. This time, he had a slightly more elaborate explanation. In his telling, 6ix9ine’s driver Jorge Rivera did not know at first that the kidnapping was fake—thus his frantic, caught-on-video response of finding a policeman in the aftermath. Neither, he said, did the rapper’s manager Kifano “Shotti” Jordan, who four days later ranted at 6ix9ine for putting himself in a position to be robbed and threatened Ellison’s life in a secretly recorded conversation.
“Jorge really believed it was a kidnapping [initially],” Cannick said. “He realized [later] this was no real crime—my boss was up to something.”
6ix9ine’s post-kidnapping hospital visit and the documented brusing on his face? “If you’re gonna pull off this hoax, you gotta make it look real,” he said.
Overall, Cannick continued, 6ix9ine was using everyone around him for PR: “He’s a bright young man. He understands marketing really well. He knows how to take advantage of situations.”
In the government’s rebuttal, attorney Michael Longyear called much of Cannick’s statement “a distraction.” He said that for a rapper like 6ix9ine, who spent so much time talking tough, the idea of being robbed as a PR stunt was ridiculous.
“How exactly does getting kidnapped enhance his gangster persona?” Longyear asked rhetorically. He pointed out that 6ix9ine himself had filmed the robbery of a Rap-A-lot artist in order to embarrass him and the label. Similarly, the point of Ellison robbing 6ix9ine was to “humiliate” the rapper and “to demonstrate that Hernandez wasn’t Billy [Nine Trey].”
Longyear explained that Ellison, who “lived and breathed Nine Trey,” was angry at 6ix9ine’s recent entry into the gang, and didn’t like his confrontational approach that often put members in the line of fire: “This poser, this rainbow-haired kid who sings songs—it was insulting. So [Ellison] robbed him to humiliate him.”
As for the idea that 6ix9ine would lie about a staged kidnapping—since lying about anything on the stand could put his cooperation agreement in jeopardy and subject him to decades in prison—Longyear was incredulous: “With Hernandez in particular, Cannick wants you to believe that he’s admitted to shootings, robberies, drug dealing… and he’s facing 47 years in jail over a staged robbery. It’s madness.”
The closing arguments from all sides took up all of Thursday. For the government, AUSA Jacob Warren laid out highlights from the voluminous amount of evidence his side had introduced over the course of the trial. He pointed out the numerous violent acts that members of Nine Trey had been a part of, and mentioned the videos, texts, phone calls, and witness testimony that placed Ellison and the case’s other defendant Aljermiah “Nuke” Mack at the center of some of them.
“Nine Trey is about violence and drugs,” Warren said at the outset. “Ellison and Mack knew what the gang was about, and chose to be a part of it.”
Mack’s attorney Louis Fasulo spent a lot of time attacking the credibility of cooperating witness Kristian Cruz, an admitted drug dealer. Fasulo called his client a victim of “guilt by association.” Longyear, in his rebuttal, said that it was instead “guilty by participation,” and explained why Cruz should be believed despite his past. Cruz, he said, put his freedom on the line if he lied on the witness stand.
“Don’t believe the cooperators because they’re good people,” Longyear said. “Believe them because they’re selfish people.”
After the hearing, Cannick was confident. “I think we gave them reason to doubt,” he told Complex. “There’s no direct evidence to give the jury reason to believe the government.”
Calvin Scholar, another attorney for Ellison, offered an additional thought about the July 22 incident. “The cooperation agreement only works if 6ix9ine has somebody to offer up,” he said. “He realizes this is his chance. He offers somebody up to get a get-out-of-jail-free card. That’s what Harv is to him.”
Jury deliberations in the case will begin on Wednesday.