Rapper "Slick Rick" granted pardon by NY governor

Hip Hop artist Richard "Slick Rick" Walters performs during the opening night of the Martin Luther King Jr. Concert Series in the Brooklyn borough of New York July 9, 2007. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Gov. David Paterson has granted British born rapper “Slick Rick” a full and unconditional pardon for attempted murder and weapons convictions to help him avoid deportation.

The rapper, whose real name is Ricky Walters, served six years of a possible 10-year sentence after pleading guilty in 1991 to two counts of attempted murder and eight weapons offenses for shooting his cousin and an innocent bystander.

Walters, who moved to the United States at age 11 and whose hits include “Children’s Story” and “La-Di-Da-Di,” opened fire on his cousin in a crowded New York City street. The bystander was hit in the foot.

He was released from prison in 1997 and discharged from parole supervision in 2000. Since then, Walters has been fighting deportation for his convictions.

“Mr. Walters has fully served the sentence imposed upon him for his convictions, had an exemplary disciplinary record while in prison and on parole, and has been living without incident in the community for more than 10 years,” Paterson said in a statement on Friday.

“In that time, he has volunteered at youth outreach programs to counsel youth against violence, and has become a symbol of rehabilitation for many young people,” he said.

Under federal law, legal immigrants to the United States convicted of an aggravated felony or a weapon offense must be deported. For certain offenses, deportation can be avoided by a Governor’s pardon. But for weapon offenses, a non-citizen must make an appeal before an immigration court.

Paterson urged immigration officials to grant 43-year-old Walters “relief from deportation” so he is not separated from his American wife and their two teenage children.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols