Creative Lawyering in Atlanta, Georgia: The Deal for “T.I.” in Federal Court

The recent deal brokered by the lawyers representing the rapper “T.I.” here in Atlanta is but one more example of how creative lawyers can sometimes put together a deal that works out for both sides. The high profile nature of the case obscures the bigger point: when qualified and creative defense attorneys work with open-minded prosecutors, sometimes there can be a deal that is in everyone’s best interest.

The Internet is full of stories about how the rapper T.I. was caught in a federal gun investigation just outside a music awards ceremony here in Atlanta. T.I. is a veritable cash cow, making millions for himself, his label and assorted hangers-on. He also is a quite talented young man, if his performance in the movie “American Gangster” is any indication. Unfortunately, T.I. also has a bit of a checkered past, replete with some felony convictions. According to press reports, along with my personal conversations with some of the lawyers and judges involved in the case, it appears that T.I.’s bodyguard got himself into trouble, and then became an informant against his boss. The feds claim that T.I. had the bodyguard purchased numerous weapons, some of which were allegedly stored in a safe at T.I.’s house.

Most defendants in this situation would be facing somewhere between 4 and 6 years in custody. However, T.I.’s defense team came up with a deal in which their client does less than a year in custody, but he has to go out and spend at least 1000 hours talking to at-risk young people about the dangers of guns and violence. One of the truly creative parts of the deal is that it requires that T.I. perform this community service BEFORE he goes to jail, and if he fails in any way, he could be facing more than 5 years in custody.

My law partner Carl Lietz was recently quoted in the press as describing this as an ‘”unprecedented” deal, and in many ways, he is right. Unfortunately, far too few prosecutors are willing to look beyond the rigid statutes and guidelines that sometimes govern criminal cases. It is important to praise prosecutors who take a chance on a defendant, even if the defendant is a high profile person with lots of money. I was a public defender for over 20 years, and I know my clients rarely got deals like this. But instead of complaining, I say we should slap the prosecutors on the back, and encourage them to be equally creative and willing to take a chance on the next kid who comes along after having done some stupid crime.