Celebrated rapper Lil Wayne was charged Tuesday with possessing a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon stemming from his holiday trip to Miami on a private plane last December, when authorities discovered the weapon during a search of the jet.
Wayne, who owns a home in Miami Beach, is expected to have his first appearance in federal court in Miami on Dec. 11. He was charged with one count and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
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As a convicted felon involving a decade-old case, Lil Wayne wasn't supposed to have a firearm on him during his travels to Miami last year. But investigators said the South Florida rapper, appearing high, admitted to owning a gold-plated pistol found in luggage during a search of a private jet just before Christmas of last year, according to state court records.
He told Miami-Dade police and FBI agents that the gun had been given to him as a Father's Day gift, according to a search warrant obtained in January of this year by the Miami Herald.
The record reveals more precise details surrounding last month's search of a a private jet with Lil Wayne and his entourage on the afternoon of Dec. 23. Inside the rapper's bag, the warrant shows, law enforcement agents reported finding the gun, along with bullets, suspected cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, heroin, pain killers and prescription-strength cough syrup often used to make a concoction called Purple Drank. Cops also found $25,938 in cash.
The 38-year-old rapper, whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., has not been charged with any drug-related offense, however. Federal authorities allowed Lil Wayne to leave after the search of his chartered plane. But he remained exposed to the new gun charge because the rapper had been convicted a decade ago; he pleaded guilty in New York to possession of a firearm stemming from his arrest in July 2007, when a loaded .40-caliber semi-automatic gun was found on his tour bus.
Lil Wayne's defense attorney, Howard Srebnick, said he plans to challenge the new federal gun charge, saying "there is no allegation that he ever fired it, brandished it, used it or threatened to use it. There is no allegation that he is a dangerous person. The charge is that because he was convicted of a felony in the past, he is prohibited from possessing a firearm."
Srebnick said the issue is ripe for a U.S. Supreme Court review, noting it has not yet been resolved as a constitutional question under the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms.
To support his point, he cited a recent appellate opinion by Amy Coney Barrett - who was confirmed as a Supreme Court justice last month - in which she stated in a dissent: "Absent evidence that he either belongs to a dangerous category or bears individual markers of risk, permanently disqualifying [a convicted felon] from possessing a gun violates the Second Amendment."
Lil Wayne drew a spat of headlines last month after tweeting a photo of himself posing with President Donald Trump before the hotly contested Nov. 3 election - drawing immediate backlash on social media.
Three years ago, the rapper was also linked to a convicted drug dealer named Harrison Garcia, who got 30 years in prison for dealing marijuana, Xanax and "lean," the drink made with potent prescription cough syrup and soda. During Garcia's trial, a federal agent said Garcia confessed to selling "a lot of narcotics" to the rapper.
Lil Wayne has famously celebrated the powerful soda brew, also known as "purple drank" or "sizzurp." He even suffered seizures after apparently drinking massive amounts of the cocktail, the celebrity gossip website TMZ reported.
Just had a great meeting with @realdonaldtrump @potus besides what he's done so far with criminal reform, the platinum plan is going to give the community real ownership. He listened to what we had to say today and assured he will and can get it done. pic.twitter.com/Q9c5k1yMWf
- Lil Wayne WEEZY F (@LilTunechi) October 29, 2020
Five bottles of prescription Codeine, the cough syrup, were also found on the rapper's luxury jet in December 2019.
The Miami Herald first broke the story about the search of the luxury jet on Dec. 23. A week later, Srebnick sent a "cease and desist" letter to the newspaper, saying descriptions of the contents in Lil Wayne's bag were "false" and "defamatory."
An anonymous tip led Miami-Dade police and FBI agents to board the Gulfstream V aircraft at Opa-locka Airport, which had just arrived from California. The plane's pilot allowed officers to search the aircraft.
When they boarded, "it was readily apparent" that Lil Wayne "was under the influence of illicit narcotics based on his delayed speech and partially closed eyes," according to the search warrant approved by a Miami-Dade state court judge. The warrant found probable cause for allegations of marijuana trafficking and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Two police dogs searched the aircraft, which smelled of marijuana, according to investigators. When FBI agent Justin Carsten asked Lil Wayne about any weapons on board, the rapper replied "there is a gold-plated Glock firearm inside his book bag ... which was given to him as a Father's Day gift," the warrant said.