Hip-hop pioneer 'Slick Rick' pardoned

May 23, 2008 3:56:10 PM PDT
New York Gov. David Paterson is granting a full and unconditional pardon to rapper Ricky "Slick Rick" Walters for the attempted murders of two men in 1991. The unconditional pardon for a 1991 attempted murder conviction aims to halt efforts to deport Walters to the United Kingdom, the country he left as a child.

The eye patch-wearing star behind the '80s rap classic "La-Di-Da-Di" served more the five years in prison after shooting his cousin and another man. Both survived.

The Democratic governor says Walters, 43, is now a rap artist and landlord in the Bronx who has not had any other criminal problems since his release from prison in 1997 and has volunteered at youth outreach programs to counsel against violence.

"My family and I are eternally thankful to Governor Paterson, my attorneys Michael Krinsky and Craig Kaplan at Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman and to all of the people who have supported me throughout the past seventeen years," Walters said in a prepared statement issued through a publicist.

"This has been a long and difficult road and I am happy for this to be settled once and for all," Walters said. "I look forward to enjoying this time with my family and friends and to continue leading an honest and productive life."

In announcing the decision, Paterson noted Walters' commitment to helping young people.

"Mr. Walters has fully served the sentence imposed upon him for his convictions, had an exemplary disciplinary record while in prison and on parole, and has been living without incident in the community for more than 10 years," Paterson said. "I urge federal immigration officials to once again grant Mr. Walters relief from deportation, so that he is not separated from his many family members who are United States citizens, including his two teenage children."

Although he had completed probation requirements in the attempted murder case and resumed his musical career, he was arrested again in June 2002. Immigrant agents stopped him after returning to Miami from a weeklong Caribbean cruise where he was a featured performer.

The arrest was on a 1997 warrant. After spending more than a year in jail, a federal judge eventually ruled in October 2003 that the Bureau of Immigration Appeals denied Walters due process when it issued the warrant.

The London-born Walters became a top emcee, working with such hip-hop luminaries as Russell Simmons, Doug E. Fresh and artists at Def Jam Records.

In 2006, Walters told The Associated Press he was simply going to keep working and play out his appeals.

"If you were in my shoes, how would you look at life?" he said then. "You'd ride life out, too. Anger would just make life not enjoyable, you know what I mean?"