Fan convicted in NYC of harassing Ashanti's mother

AP News
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Posted: Dec 22, 2009 10:44 PM

A would-be rapper was convicted Tuesday of harassing Ashanti's mother with a flurry of dirty photos and lewd text messages about the Grammy Award-winning R&B star.

Devar Hurd shook his head as a Manhattan jury delivered its verdict after two days of deliberations, finding him guilty of stalking and aggravated harassment for messages the singer's mother called scary and disgusting.

Hurd, a sometime model and car salesman from Griffith, Ind., said he thought the crude messages, photos of his genitals and a picture of the home where Ashanti's family lives were welcome.

The 31-year-old is being held without bail until his sentencing, set for Jan. 11. He faces up to two years in prison. His lawyer, Richard Verchick, left court without speaking to reporters and didn't immediately return a phone call afterward.

Ashanti's mother, Tina Douglas, told jurors she didn't know Hurd when he began calling her and leaving messages recounting bizarre and rambling sexual fantasies about the singer. Douglas manages her daughter's multiplatinum-selling career.

Douglas said she told Hurd to leave her alone but he went on to send dozens of revolting text messages and pictures.

"It was just disgusting and humiliating and extremely frightening," Douglas testified, adding that she pulled Ashanti out of a rehearsal of "The Wiz" after Hurd sent a message that mentioned seeing the singer's car outside the theater.

Ashanti starred as Dorothy in an off-Broadway revival of the musical this summer. Hurd told jurors he was nowhere near the theater when he sent the message.

Punctuating his testimony with occasional rap lines and finger-snapping, Hurd said the messages and photos were just intended as bawdy banter and jokes.

Hurd, who said he performs around his Chicago-area hometown while working jobs ranging from landscaping to selling timeshares, told the jury he was working on an unspecified business deal with the singer's parents. He said he got Douglas' cell phone number from her daughter's record label.

The picture of the car and another showing the family's Glen Cove, N.Y., home _ accompanied by a message about being in the neighborhood and stopping by to visit _ were just images he found online while more than 700 miles away in Indiana, he said.

"Why would I want to annoy (Douglas) or harass her or whatever in any kind of way?" he asked jurors. "Doing anything to her or to Ashanti ... that's not my style."

Ashanti didn't testify.

Since signing her first record deal at 14, she has recorded hits including "Foolish" and "Only U." She also has acted in such films as "Coach Carter" and "John Tucker Must Die."