Earl Simmons, better known as “DMX,” or simply “X,” rapped his way out of a full five-year Federal prison sentence for tax evasion in a Manhattan Federal court Wednesday, instead receiving only a one year sentence along with an order to pay $2.29 million in restitution.
“I knew that taxes should have been paid,” Simmons told Judge Jed S. Rakoff. “I do take responsibility for what I’ve done,” adding: “I guess I didn’t think my sh-t stank.”
Simmons’ lawyers, Murray and Stacey Richmond, also played four minutes of the official rap video for the DMX song, “Slippin’,” which includes the lyrics “Wanna make records but I’m f--king it up/I’m Slippin’, I’m fallin’, I gots to get up.”
As the video played on screens throughout the courtroom, Simmons and others nodded their heads in unison to the beat.
The charges date back to 2010, and allege that Simmons failed to file yearly federal returns and evaded taxes by living what the indictment calls an “all-cash” lifestyle, demanding to be paid in cash whenever possible and having checks deposited into accounts held by managers, who then covered Simmons’ expenses and dispensed cash to him.
Simmons, 47, originally faced a maximum of 44 years in prison, according to Federal prosecutors. But, in December, Simmons plead guilty to one count of tax fraud, which exposed him to a possible five-year prison sentence, according to court records. It was a long fall for an artist who Billboard once called the "Grand Champ" of the album chart, and who crossed over into acting in movies and television as well.
On Wednesday afternoon, Simmons was escorted by two Federal marshals into Judge Rakoff’s courtroom. It was packed with supporters and other observers. He was not handcuffed. He wore a small smile and a dark blue prison-issue smock.
After waving to the gallery, he clenched his right fist, drew it across his chest and lightly touched his heart twice, before sitting down at a table with his lawyers, and waving to journalists sitting nearby in the jury-box.
In a pre-sentencing brief, Simmons’ lawyers argued for mercy, revealing Simmons’ Dickensian childhood.
“Random violence reigned down upon him by his mother,” they wrote in the brief.
When he was seven, the brief says, his mother beat two teeth out of his mouth with a broom handle. When he was 10, she dropped him off at an orphanage.
But Federal prosecutor Richard Cooper stressed Simmons’ 20-year record of crimes, and said a five-year prison sentence was called for by strict Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Simmons’ crime, he added, “was not a one time error in judgment.” Instead, it was “a six year long crime.”
Judge Rakoff was not persuaded.
“This Court regards the guidelines as inherently irrational,” Rakoff said.
Instead, Rakoff said, a shorter prison sentence would do, calling Simmons’ life an example of “The sins of the parents are visited upon their children.”
“In the court’s view, Mr. Simmons is a good man. But far from perfect man. He his own worst enemy,” Rakoff said.
Then, quoting Oscar Wilde’s “The Ballad of Reading Goal,” Judge Rakoff said “each man kills the thing he loves, there is a bit of that in Mr. Simmons.”