Rapper Tekashi69 was released from federal prison on Thursday because his asthma puts him at heightened risk for developing severe symptoms to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The New York Times reports that U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayor confirmed that the pandemic presented “extraordinary and compelling reasons” for a compassionate release. Engelmayor, who sentenced the 23-year-old rapper to a two-year term after he was found guilty of a series of gang robberies and shootings, said Tekashi69 “no longer will present a meaningful danger to the community if at liberty.”
Born Daniel Hernandez, 6ix9ine has also been hospitalized for bronchitis in the past, reports the BBC. Studies have found chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes increase the likelihood of developing COVID-19. Hernandez will be allowed to serve the final four months of his term at home.
In 2019, Hernandez cooperated with federal authorities to give evidence against the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods, his former gang. In exchange, he got a reduced sentence.
Releasing folks who are incarcerated—particularly those charged with low-level, nonviolent crimes—makes sense during a pandemic: it’s nearly impossible to follow social distancing protocols in jails and prisons, and viruses far less contagious than the coronavirus have been known to spread rapidly through correctional facilities. If the virus continues to break out in jails and prisons around the U.S., it will cause an additional strain on hospitals and health resources the country simply can’t afford.
But it’s also fair to wonder whether celebrity afforded 6ix9ine a privilege not enough other inmates have. While some cities and states have moved to release hundreds of nonviolent offenders, other prisoners and detainees must have their cases decided individually.
“Mr. Hernandez’s underlying health issues, his earlier cooperation with the authorities and the short remainder of his sentence may have made him a good candidate for release,” the Times notes, while pointing out that other celebrity inmates—namely, R. Kelly and Bill Cosby—has thus far proven unsuccessful in their petitions to be released.
In those cases, the fact that they are celebrities may work against them.
If you thought Hernandez had any plans of laying low—think again.
“He has no intention of going into” witness protection, Hernandez’s lawyer, Lance Lazzaro, told the Times on Thursday. “He hopes to resume his career.”
Journalist Lisa Evers said she spoke to Hernandez’s legal team, who said the rapper will return to social media and “plans to work on 2 new albums for his 10k Projects label.”
Hrmmmm. Good luck with that, chief.