Arkansas rapper Bankroll Freddie ordered to remain in jail

Judge: Release plan violated

Helena-West Helena rapper Freddie Gladney, known as Bankroll Freddie, is shown in this undated publicity photo. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Gunner Stahl)
Helena-West Helena rapper Freddie Gladney, known as Bankroll Freddie, is shown in this undated publicity photo. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Gunner Stahl)

An Arkansas rap music artist arrested after a far-reaching federal investigation into two central Arkansas street gangs had his career put on hold by a federal magistrate judge who ordered him to remain in jail while fighting the charges against him.

On Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe Volpe ordered rapper Freddie Gladney III to remain in pre-trial detention after he and his attorney failed to convince the judge that Gladney would abide by any conditions the judge may set to ensure proper supervision.

A Helena native, Gladney is also known by his rap name Bankroll Freddie, under which he released an album last year featuring industry heavyweights such as Megan Thee Stallion, Gucci Mane and 2 Chainz.

Gladney was arrested Nov. 10 in Jonesboro by FBI agents after being named in one of three indictments that charged 80 people with crimes ranging from conspiracy to distribute narcotics to weapons violations. Gladney was one of 35 people indicted in association with the street gang Every Body Killas -- EBK -- that is active in central Arkansas.

Another indictment charged 26 people in association with the rival gang Lodi Murder Mobb. Both indictments came about as the result of an investigation by the FBI's GETROCK Task Force.

Another 18 people were indicted as part of a separate investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration into trafficking of fentanyl and other narcotics into central Arkansas. Three people were named in multiple indictments and three others were charged in separate indictments.

At the time of his arrest, Gladney was under indictment in federal court on drug and gun charges and was on pre-trial release after an April 14 arrest by state police in Crittenden County. Those charges were incorporated into the latest indictment, which charges him with a range of offenses including conspiracy to distribute marijuana, possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and possession of a machine gun.

During more than two hours of testimony, Gladney's bodyguard, business manager and girlfriend tried to convince Volpe to release Gladney, but the judge remained unconvinced. Avery Campbell, Gladney's security manager, had been serving as third-party custodian to supervise Gladney during his pre-trial release on the previous charges and was presented by J.F. Valley, Gladney's attorney, to continue in that role. However, under questioning, it became clear that Campbell, who lives in Little Rock, was often unaware of the whereabouts of his charge, who was living in Jonesboro with his girlfriend, Michelle Hughes.

Asked about a trip Gladney made to Houston in early November to attend a football game between Jackson State University and Texas Southern, Campbell appeared to be hearing about it for the first time.

"To Houston?" he asked. "In November?"

"He went to a football game," prompted Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Peters. "Jackson State versus Texas Southern?"

Campbell was also unable to recall details of Gladney's curfew.

"His case was unique," Campbell said. "We called. We were on a schedule or studio time and as long as he checked in, as long as he called within the parameters of operation ... I'm sure there was a curfew and I'm sure there was a time and I'm also sure I had him back home before that time."

Hughes testified that on Nov. 9, after Gladney's arrest, she picked up his purple Lamborghini from the home of co-defendant Kajarvis O'Neal, where Gladney had left it. She said he had left the house that morning to get medicine for their 2-year-old daughter.

"What kind of medicine was he going to get?" Peters asked.

"We didn't discuss anything in particular," Hughes said. "She was throwing up and he was panicking. I wasn't panicking because I'm used to it, it's like her third time doing it ... He just left and went to get something for it."

"That's what he told you?" Peters asked.

"I told him to go get medicine," Hughes said. "I didn't tell him anything in particular to get."

"Where did you expect him to go to get this medicine?" Peters asked.

"Anywhere. He was at Kajarvis' house," Hughes said. "He could have got it from there, CVS, he could have went to Walmart, anywhere."

Asked about guns, Hughes said Gladney never handled guns around her. When confronted with a transcript of a wiretap interception in which investigators said Gladney was overheard instructing Hughes on how to operate a weapon he had just loaded, she denied that it was her on the call.

Jimmy Jackson of Little Rock, owner of CTG Studios, said that he began managing Gladney's career in 2018, getting him signed to the QC record label in September 2019.

Jackson described how QC expanded Gladney's exposure, ramping his earnings from $3,500 a show to $15,000 almost overnight.

But with Gladney's arrest and possible incarceration, that revenue stream would be in danger of drying up, which Jackson said would endanger the livelihoods of "50 or 60 families."

"He's the only rapper to ever come out of Arkansas," Jackson said, growing more animated. "This is a unique situation the state has never dealt with before. Yeah, I've got some feelings a little bit but we're all struggling right now because he's locked up. He's the king ... Once he took off and signed a million-dollar contract we all quit our jobs. We all rely on Freddie."

Gladney's arrest, he said, had jeopardized a contract with Live Nation for a 45-day tour that was signed just before he was arrested.

"They called and said if he don't get out the tour is canceled," he said.

After a brief recess, Volpe ruled that Gladney's release plan was nothing more than the same release plan approved after his prior arrest. But, he said, that release plan was violated almost from the beginning by Gladney's maneuverings that lax oversight failed to pick up on.

"Tell me why I can trust that this third-party custodian is reliable when he doesn't even know your client is in Houston for four days," Volpe said to Valley. "How is that possible?"

"Under those conditions it wouldn't be possible," Valley conceded. "The third-party custodian should know."

Volpe sympathized with Jackson and said he believed Campbell had testified truthfully but said he could not approve sending Gladney back into the same situation.

He said that Hughes' testimony was not reliable and may have placed her in legal jeopardy.

"I think she may be looking at a summons for a perjury charge," he said. "I didn't find her credible at all."

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