NEW YORK (AP) — A former hip-hop and rap promoter serving a life prison term will get a new trial on charges that he ordered the killing of a rap group associate, an appeals court ruled Tuesday.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said a judge made errors that affected the fairness of the trial of James Rosemond, known in rap circles as "Jimmy the Henchman."
Rosemond was convicted in December 2014 on charges he ordered a crew to kill an associate of the rap group known as G-Unit. Prosecutors said the killing was payback for an assault on Rosemond's son. Rosemond's lawyer argued witnesses against him were unreliable.
Rosemond, who owned New York City-based Czar Entertainment, has represented artists including The Game and Sean Kingston. He already was serving a life sentence for smuggling cocaine in music equipment cases between studios in New York and Los Angeles.
In March 2014, Judge Colleen McMahon declared a mistrial when a jury could not reach a verdict in the murder case brought against Rosemond.
In its Tuesday ruling, a three-judge 2nd Circuit panel said McMahon erred in unduly restricting Rosemond's ability to defend against the charges when he was convicted at a second trial.
The judge had ruled that any argument by defense attorneys that the government had failed to prove that Rosemond had intended to murder rather than merely shoot the victim would open the door to prosecutors telling jurors about things Rosemond told them when he was considering cooperating with the government.
The appeals court said Rosemond told law enforcement officers when he was considering cooperating that he knew death would result when he and others took actions in September 2009 regarding a feud with a rival company, Violator Records, and its rap group, G-Unit.
Rosemond and the government had signed an agreement prohibiting the government from using Rosemond's statements against him, except to contest factual assertions made by him or on his behalf in later proceedings.
Michael Rayfield, a lawyer for Rosemond, said he was delighted by the outcome.
"It's a major step in Mr. Rosemond's path to justice. James has consistently maintained his innocence, and we'll continue to work hard to make sure that he's ultimately vindicated," Rayfield said.