Ask A Lawyer - Is Chief Keef Going To Jail?

Our legal counsel offers his take.

UPDATE: Today, Chief Keef was found guilty of violating his probation, a charge stemming from a June video posted by Pitchfork depicting the teenage rapper—then on probation for possessing a gun that was fired at a police officer—shooting a gun at a gun range. When the charges first arose, we interviewed an anonymous lawyer and had him break down the situation for us.

Chief Keef has problems. The 17-year-old rapper might face legal consequences for a Pitchfork-produced video that features Keef—who is currently on probation for a gun charge—shooting a gun off in a gun range. Prosecutors are saying that this is 100% definitely a violation of his probation, while Keef’s people are saying he was simply following the advice of adults around him.

There are a lot of moving parts here. In the video (which has since been taken down by Pitchfork, who also issued an apology), Keef, born Keith Cozart, can be seen signing legal documents as “Chief Keef.” Prosecutors will be calling for Keef to be sent to Juvenile Hall at his hearing on November 20th, and in an initial hearing, a Chicago judge said that Keef should be placed under house arrest again. If either such rulings were to pass, this could have serious ramifications upon Keef and his career. So, we asked a lawyer about it.

NOISEY: So you know how Pitchfork has their “Selector” series? Well, they got Chief Keef to go shoot at a gun range and then freestyle there. The police are saying that the footage of him shooting a gun is evidence of him violating his probation. But his lawyer is saying that he was essentially coerced by adults into doing it.
Is he a minor?

He’s seventeen.
‘Adults’ then being Pitchfork?

And your question is…who’s right?

Who’s right and did he actually violate his probation?
I think he probably still violated his probation. Is that not what you want me to say?


Is Pitchfork under any…
Aiding and abetting a violation of his probation?

Were they aware of the fact that this could potentially be a violation?

They must have been aware! He probably signed Pitchfork release forms of some sort on top of the gun range waiver, so here’s a kid that might have not been coerced, but was certainly influenced to take those steps.
I think these are all arguments he could definitely make to a judge but I’m not sure if any of them are conclusive. They are in his favor but not quite clear cut. How old is he?

He’s seventeen.
He probably knew better then, right?

It’s inconclusive. Which side would you be on? Or let me ask you a better question: What happens when you sign a pseudonym on legal documents?
You’re supposed to sign under your legal name. Modern contract law looks to the intent of the parties though. Traditional contract law was all about formalities, but modern law looks through the language of the agreement if it’s called into question, asking, “What were they trying to accomplish here?” I can’t see the documents myself but usually on a signature page you sign your name and then print it. Now, your signature can be anything, you know? Some people’s signatures can look like squiggly lines but is there’s circumstantial evidence that he actually signed the agreement, you know—had the intent to sign the agreement, then the pseudonym part is not really that strong of an argument.

Would the gun range be under any potential threat?
Probably not because I would guess that agreement would state that you’re not legally prohibited from doing things there.

But they allowed him to sign, basically, a fake name. It would be like me going in there and signing “Chuck-e-Cheese” and getting away with that.
Right. I can’t speak to it without seeing what the terms of his agreement are. If he’s presented an agreement with clear terms that states certain things and he’s signing it under a pseudonym—it’s still him, it’s not another person, it’s not ‘Chuck-e-Cheese,’ it’s a name he goes by.

Are you familiar with Lil Boosie?

He’s a rapper from Louisiana. Recently, it was alleged that he paid a guy to kill another guy, and the prosecution used his lyrics as evidence…
Violent lyrics?

He literally says “I’m going to pay this guy kill you” in a song.
I see, it shows intent and that it’s premeditated.

But it was proved to be inadmissible in court, which stated that he has artistic license to say whatever he wanted. Could this same principle be applicable here since it’s a video meant for entertainment?
You’re talking about the inadmissibly of evidence versus the merits of what he did and whether or not that can be used to violate his probation? Those are sort of two different rules. What’s admissible in court depends upon procedural rules and this is more about whether this action violated his parole.

I’d be curious to know the exact terms of his probation and how detailed they are. I’m sure it was pretty clear he wasn’t supposed to be shootings guns. To say he was coerced by Pitchfork or that he didn’t know what he was doing….he could have said no, he could have suggested that they do it at a different place, his manager could have suggested something—I’m sure it’s not even just him making the decision, it seems like it was a mistake on a lot of levels.

As a minor how much legal culpability do you really even have for this type of thing?
As a minor you’re not supposed to be signing documents under the age of eighteen.

Without a legal guardian.
Especially at a gun range! Actually, that’s a good angle: the contract that he signed may require the signature of a legal guardian or parent in order for you to shoot at that range. So the gun range may be culpable.

Does that get rid of his liability as violating his probation? Not necessarily, they just both might be having legal problems.

It seems like this range allowed a minor without legal consent of a parent/document….

A minor with a record.
…to agree to a hazardous environment. But I’m not sure exactly what that contract sates, I’m not sure of the rules at that range, the agreement might state that you’re warranting your age as 18 or above or you are a parent signing off in behalf. They might be covered in the language of the contract.

He’s a minor but he had clear terms, violated those terms, and he was aware of it. I’m sure Pitchfork didn’t pay him handsomely. Maybe he wasn’t aware?

Is anyone arguing against this?

His lawyers are saying that adults coerced him into violating his probation.
Does he have a manager that’s an adult arguing in his favor?!

Well the people Chief Keef has around him might not have his best interests in mind. He’s from the poorest and most dangerous part of Chicago, and his manager in all likelihood is just some guy.
He’s sort of an overnight success from YouTube. Right?

Yeah, success from YouTube and then suddenly Kanye remixes one of his tracks, he signs with Interscope, gets a movie deal, and his own line of headphones. Beats by Keef.
It’s crazy to have a movie made about your life before you’re eighteen.

What kind of time is he looking at? Even house arrest is not a good look.
The arguments his lawyers are making have merit but at the same time he wasn’t entering an ambiguous situation. He had time to think about it before he got there—he had to travel in order to get there and to think that his charges, particularly relate to gun charges. That being said, maybe it wasn’t so obvious to him being that it was a gun range and not shooting at something in a back alley. He probably thought it was a formal setting and that he’d be signing formal contracts that would make it proper. I’m not a criminal attorney but it seems like there are valid arguments for both sides.

He’s also not allowed to do drugs (obviously) and there are videos of him smoking weed on YouTube. So why do you think the video of him shooting a gun causes his parole officer to go after that one rather than one of him smoking out of a vaporizer?
There’s more circumstantial evidence that he was actually there, shooting a gun. Stuff like the agreement we’re talking about and secondary sources saying that he was there.

If you had a fall of the gavel opinion, what would you say? (anonymously, since you don’t have all the facts)
Since I’m thinking about this in real time, having the facts brought to me over the course of the conversation; my opinion is that he will be found to have violated his probation.

Did you hear why got kicked off Instagram?

He tweeted a picture of him getting his dick sucked surrounded by cash.

Being that he’s seventeen wouldn’t that count as child pornography?
Yeah, but who’s to be held culpable since he uploaded it himself?

By having a picture of Chief Keef getting his dick sucked am I possessing child pornography?
You had no intent of seeking that out or following child pornography. Criminal law usually looks to the intent of the person committing the crime-that’s how different degrees of crime are categorized—the more intent that you had to commit the crime, the greater the punishment. That’s why premeditation for murder is worse than doing something in the heat of the moment. It’s called mens rea, which is Latin for “bad intent” or something like that, so you just inadvertently going Instagram is different than you seeking something like that out.

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