Florida-based artist Y&R Mookey was sentenced this week to 10 years in prison after being found guilty of possessing a firearm. The conviction and the trial that preceded it received national attention, largely because music videos were used during court proceedings.
According to a regional report from Jacksonville’s First Coast News, Mookey, a 23-year-old entertainer whose real name is Tyler Jackson, was sentenced to 10 years in the Florida Department of Corrections on Tuesday. Additionally, as Florida 4th Circuit Judge Meredith Charbula detailed during her comments in court, he was sentenced to five years probation.
“Mr. Jackson, I have watched the music videos and I have to say I am appalled by their content, by the direction,” Charbula said during the sentencing hearing. In an apparent reference to the defense alleging which such works are examples of creative expression and should not be used as such, the judge added, “It may have been art, but it wasn’t for that.”
Jackson, who was assigned 739 days already served, also spoke at Tuesday’s hearing.
“I want to emphasize that I am in no way the person the state is trying to make me,” he told the court. “I am not a violent person. I have no violent charges or violent criminal history. I am not a gang member, and I have never been a gang member or guilty by association with a gang. I have no criminal history as an adult and I do my best not to encounter law enforcement.
In February, it was announced that Jackson had been convicted of possession of a firearm by a young offender convicted of committing an indictable offence. Mentioned in a press release at the time by State’s Attorney Melissa Nelson was a 2018 video clip that allegedly showed “several individuals wielding firearms.”
Jackson’s mother, Diane Watts, was quoted in a Jacksonville Insider report in February as saying the firearms in question were actually “prop guns.” And during sentencing this week, Jackson himself reiterated that he is an entertainer and a performer, noting that the state was “pursuing” his music videos for him.
“I’m a budding artist and I’m trying to make a career out of what I love and what I have a passion for, which is music,” he told the judge, as seen in the First Coast News video above. “Music is my profession and the way I intend to make a living and shouldn’t be taken at face value. I’m just an artist giving my fans what they want to see and hear. The state pursues my music videos and not who I am as a person.
Complex has reached out to Jackson’s attorney for additional comment and will update this post accordingly.
Of course, this is just the latest example of a growing problem that other artists have already spoken out against. In short, it is widely seen as a truly slippery slope to use artistic expression in a strictly literal sense in the pursuit of criminal charges, as such an approach goes against the very nature of what the art is meant to provide both the creator and the audience.
In January, the use of the lyrics in a similar court-focused way was the subject of a campaign by Jay-Z and Meek Mill, among others. The two were among those who backed a bill called “Rap Music on Trial,” which, in short, aims to end the use of lyrics as evidence. The bill was originally introduced by Sen. Brad Hoylman and Sen. Jamaal Bailey last November.