Ricky Hampton, a rap artist who was performing when multiple shots were fired inside Little Rock's Power Ultra Lounge early July 1, 2017, was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison for possessing a gun a week earlier outside a Forrest City nightclub.
As a convicted felon, the 26-year-old Memphis man wasn't allowed to carry a gun, but cellphone videos taken outside Club Envy after one of his performances showed him holding a machine-gun-style pistol known as a Draco as he yelled at a female motorist to get out of his way.
At the time, Hampton was standing in the doorway of a car that was behind the woman's car, advancing on her as she frantically tried to steer her way out of a traffic jam. As she drove off, a bullet shattered her back windshield and grazed the side of her neck.
Hampton hasn't admitted he fired the gun during the incident early June 25, 2017, and in federal court he has been charged only with possessing it. Still, his penalty range under federal sentencing guidelines included an enhancement of about three years for carrying the gun during the commission of another felony -- shooting the gun.
Hampton is facing aggravated-assault charges in St. Francis County Circuit Court in the alleged firing of the gun that night, though his attorney said he maintains that the gun he was shown carrying was "a different class of weapon" than the one that shot out the car's window.
U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes said Thursday that as far as the federal case is concerned, "there is not any doubt that he pulled the gun out and fired."
But because the suggested sentencing range already took that into account, he said, he wouldn't increase the sentence further and would order Hampton to serve it concurrently to whatever sentence he receives in St. Francis County.
Holmes ordered Hampton to serve the federal sentence consecutively, however, to sentences he has yet to receive in two pending cases in state court -- one in Pulaski County and one in Tennessee.
In Pulaski County, Hampton is charged with a single count of possession of a firearm by a certain person, which accuses him of holding a gun inside the Power Ultra Lounge. The Tennessee charge stems from an April 2017 arrest that involved marijuana, cash and a 9mm handgun found in a car, according to testimony Thursday.
Warren Newman, an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, revealed the details Thursday of Hampton's state charge stemming from the shooting inside the Power Ultra Lounge, in which police said rival gang members exchanged shots, injuring 25 people.
Newman said the charge stems from witness reports of seeing Hampton inside the club with a gun, as well as a video that "shows him grabbing the butt of a pistol under his shirt."
Newman said one of the witnesses reported hearing gunshots and then seeing Hampton with a pistol in his hand with the slide locked back, indicating all the rounds had been fired. He said that is consistent with a statement given by Hampton's former bodyguard, Kentrell Gwynn, that "Mr. Hampton emptied the pistol into the ground" inside the club.
He said yet another witness has reported seeing Hampton on the stage holding a gun and telling someone, "You are in a red zone," which he said "suggests they had to shoot their way out."
In the federal gun case, Hampton's attorney, Nicole Lybrand of the federal public defender's office, sought a 51-month sentence, which was within the suggested penalty range, while Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Mazzanti asked Holmes to go above the suggested range and impose a 10-year sentence.
Mazzanti cited the "terrifying" nature of the ordeal for the victim, as well as Hampton's previous aggravated-robbery convictions for robbing two people at gunpoint when he was 15 years old. Plus, she said, citing testimony about what Hampton has previously told mental health professionals about his earlier years, "He admittedly shot at 10 people when he was 15," and also admitted to pistol-whipping someone, running over someone and hitting his mother's boyfriend over the head with a golf club.
Garrett Andrews, a neuropsychologist in Little Rock, testified that Hampton had been diagnosed as early as 2010 with bipolar disorder with manic or psychotic features, which made him paranoid and caused him to hallucinate and hear voices. Andrews also testified that according to Hampton's records, he had homicidal or suicidal ideations while off his medication, and couldn't control his emotions.
Andrews said records show that Hampton was hospitalized three times for his mental illness. He said records indicate that while Hampton was on mood-stabilizing medications in the hospital, his symptoms disappeared, but when he got out and couldn't find or afford his medications, his manic and delusional behavior would start again, causing him to self-medicate.
Andrews testified that Hampton has post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of exposure to violence as he grew up, which included having friends who were killed, witnessing people being shot and robbed, and his family being evicted from its home and forced to be homeless for a time. His disorder triggers hyper-vigilance, paranoia and increased anxiety, as well as recurring nightmares, Andrews said, noting that Hampton was experiencing some of those feelings outside the club in Forrest City.
"I do believe that if he stays in his treatment and takes his medications ... he should be able to control those behaviors," Andrews testified.
Mazzanti sounded skeptical, noting that Hampton surely could have afforded his medication while he was making $75,000 to $100,000 a year as a rapper.
During his own turn at the lectern, Hampton told the judge, "I'm just like any other entertainer" who plays up to an image when on camera or on stage, but, "I am no gangster or street dude."
He said that "when this occurred, I wasn't taking my medications because they made me drowsy," and he was feeling paranoid partly because he had recently been robbed.
"I was blocked in by a car, thinking it was a robbery," he said.
Appearing calm and relaxed, Hampton told the judge that since his incarceration on the federal charge, he has been taking a mood-stabilizing medication that doesn't make him drowsy and "allows me to function." He also said that he hopes to someday "use my influence to work with youth and teach them about nonviolence."
"He doesn't act erratically when he's medicated as he's supposed to be," Lybrand said.
Holmes cited Hampton's mental-health issues in imposing the prison sentence with requirements that he participate in substance abuse, mental health and vocational programs. He also ordered Hampton to serve three years of supervised release, during which he must continue treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues. Holmes said Hampton must pay a co-pay for each of up to $40 a month, unless he demonstrates he isn't financially able to pay it.
Metro on 12/07/2018
Print Headline: Rapper gets 5 years in '17 weapon case