Rapper T.I. pleads guilty in U.S. gun case

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Grammy Award-winning rapper T.I. reversed course on Thursday and pleaded guilty to three charges of illegal weapons possession.

Hip Hop star T.I. talks during the nominations news conference for the MTV Video Music Awards in New York, in this July 31, 2006 file photograph. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files

The 27-year-old rapper could have faced up to 10 years in prison for each of the charges, but under terms of his plea agreement he will receive a lighter penalty.

Sentencing will be delayed until March 2009. In the meantime, T.I., who was born Clifford Harris, must serve at least 1,000 hours of community service.

If he lives up to his deferred sentencing agreement, he will be sentenced to one year in prison, pay a $100,000 fine, spend three years under supervised release, including a year of home detention, and perform a total of 1,500 hours of community service, U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said in a statement.

If the rapper doesn’t hold up his end of the deal, he will receive a much longer sentence, Nahmias said.

“That (community) service will focus on using his high public visibility and his talents and life experience to tell at-risk young people about the mistakes he has made and to educate them about the dangers of violence, guns, gangs, and drugs,” Nahmias said.

“If Mr. Harris (T.I.) performs as expected, his efforts and ability to reach and influence a large number of young people should prevent and deter at least some of them from committing crimes that endanger their communities and ruin their lives,” the statement said.

T.I. won two Grammys last year. He starred in the 2006 film “ATL” and appeared with Denzel Washington in the 2007 movie “American Gangster.”

“While I’m not looking forward to being incarcerated, I have a long road of redemption to travel ... I am dedicated and committed to that,” T.I. said in comments quoted by local media.

The case against T.I. began in October when agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested him in a sting operation as he took possession of three machine guns and two silencers that a bodyguard bought on his behalf.

T.I. also admitted he illegally possessed eight firearms found in his vehicle and home. He was convicted of a drug offense in 1998 and is barred from owning or buying firearms.

Two weeks after his arrest, the rapper pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on $3 million bond and ordered to remain at home and submit to strict surveillance.

His arrest in Atlanta attracted wide publicity in part because it occurred on the day of the BET Hip Hop Awards, at which he was due to have played a prominent role.

“This resolution is in the public interest and consistent with the principles of federal prosecution and sentencing,” Nahmias said.

Writing by Matthew Bigg; editing by Michael Christie and Mohammad Zargham