Boosie tells federal judge about April 1 wedding date as no-contact order with fiancée remains
The Louisiana rapper and convicted felon faces an ongoing grand jury probe after San Diego police saw him on Instagram with a gun while he was in the city for a concert.
SAN DIEGO — Rapper Boosie Badazz can’t contact his fiancée for the next 60 days after a prosecutor persuaded the judge in his federal gun case that the restriction may not be the unnecessary intrusion on his rights that she initially said it was.
Joining the hearing via telephone, Boosie interjected after U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo issued her order on Friday at the federal courthouse in San Diego.
“Can I say one thing?” Boosie asked.
“Ah, no, Mr. Hatch, you can’t. I’m sorry. First of all because I don’t want to say anything on the record without having your counsel — ” Judge Bencivengo said, referring to Boosie’s legal name, Torrance Ivy Hatch Jr.
Boosie interrupted again and told the judge he’s scheduled to marry on April 1.
“Me and my fiancée was having a wedding. Do I need to set it back?” he asked.
“Boosie, I suggest that you remain silent and not say anything on the record,” his lawyer Damon Alimouri said from inside the courtroom.
Judge Bencivengo said if a “singular event” is planned for when the restriction is in place, “you can certainly ask for the court to allow communication.”
The 41-year-old “Set It Off” and “Bank Roll” rapper has been restricted from contacting his girlfriend since he was released on bond in June after being charged with felon in possession of a firearm, but his lawyers filed a motion on Thursday asking for it to be lifted.
Judge Bencivengo began Friday’s hearing sympathetic to Boosie’s request because his fiancée, Rajel Nelson, wasn’t in San Diego on May 6, 2023, when San Diego police arrested him.
The rapper and convicted felon was scheduled to perform at a San Diego night club when police saw him on an Instagram live stream with a gun in his back waistband while hanging out with San Diego gang members. A police helicopter helped identify him for officers, who stopped the black Mercedes SUV he was in riding in and found him with a Glock 19 pistol loaded with nine rounds of ammunition and one in the chamber.
Nelson “wasn’t a witness to any of that,” Bencivengo said on Friday.
“This is his fiancée who he lives with. This seems like a fairly serious curtailment of his personal rights. And I’m not quite sure what the basis of it is other than the sort of vague assertion that she may have evidence,” the judge said.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wheat said he “vehemently” opposes Boosie contacting Nelson, and he asked the judge if he could share information with her privately as an “ex parte proffer.” Bencivengo allowed the common procedure, and Wheat spoke with her at the bench for a couple minutes before the judge announced she was prohibiting Boosie and Nelson from contacting each other for another 60 days.
First, Alimouri, a Pasadena-based solo practitioner, told the judge that while he doesn’t know what Wheat said to her, “I don’t see the need for such an intrusion into something so fundamental to Mr. Hatch’s life as his ability to be with the romantic partner of his choice.”
“This is something of a shot in the dark on my part,” Alimouri told Bencivengo. “But I do know that there have been no allegations of any sort of destruction or any sort of violence toward the young lady.”
Bencivengo said “in light” of her discussion with Wheat, she was extending the no-contact order as a condition of Boosie’s release from custody, but “it will lapse at 60 days if there’s not additional evidence disclosed to defense as to why the condition should continue.”
Boosie initially was charged in San Diego state court. He was going to plead guilty, but prosecutors dismissed the case and federal agents arrested him at the courthouse.
“We were set to get a very, very lenient deal for Boosie, which was justified considering his philanthropy and his decency and goodness as a human being and as a member of his community,” Alimouri told reporters on Friday.
A jury in Boosie’s home city of Baton Rogue, Louisiana, acquitted him of first-degree murder in 2012. But he has three felony convictions from 2011 — for trying to smuggle drugs into a prison, conspiring to incite a felony and possessing a controlled substance with intent to distribute — which means he can’t legally possess firearms. He also has a misdemeanor marijuana possession conviction from 2020 in Georgia.
Boosie faces a potentially much more serious punishment in San Diego now that his case is in federal court if he’s convicted of possessing a gun while being a felon. He also could eventually face more charges: His lawyer confirmed Friday he’s the subject of another federal grand jury investigation.
“The government has its own investigation that’s pending. They don’t have any duty in the law to disclose what it is they’re investigating,” Alimouri told reporters after the hearing.
Alimouri and Blanco joined Boosie at the BET Awards in Los Angeles in June after he was released from federal custody on $100,000 bond and an ankle monitor. They filed an emergency motion seeking his release by midnight on June 23 that cited his scheduled appearance at the awards show, but he was released before the judge considered it.
According to the federal complaint, Boosie’s problems in San Diego began when an undercover San Diego police officer “conducting intelligence gathering” on Instagram saw a story on a public account for “a known Neighborhood Crip gang member” that featured a man with a handgun in his back waistband. The story tagged Boosie’s Instagram page “mamaheliveagain2.0,” which was live streaming at the time.
“The officer watched and recorded the live story. While watching the live story, the officer observed the 49th street sign in the background and heard an unknown male exclaim that they were live on the streets of San Diego,” according to the complaint.
The federal agent who wrote the complaint said a San Diego police officer informed him “that the area between 49th Street and Guymon Street in San Diego, CA is associated with the ‘Neighborhood Crip’ criminal street gang.”
Boosie’s incriminating Instagram video was uploaded to YouTube “in the minutes before he entered the Mercedes and was stopped by the SDPD,” according to the complaint.
Police found found two guns in a satchel worn by Boosie’s security guard, Billy Ray Johnson, as well as a Glock gun box on the rear floor board and a “suspected marijuana joint,” according to a June 13 complaint in the Southern District of California, which is the federal court system encompassing San Diego County. Police arrested Boosie, Johnson and the SUV’s driver, Michael Fisher.
“During a search incident to arrest of HATCH, officers located multiple stacks of cash in his left pants pocket, totaling approximately $16,854, and a cellphone in his right pant pocket,” according to the complaint.
San Diego police say he demonstrated his knowledge of the firearms in the Mercedes SUV when he yelled at his security guard “and asked why the security guard told the detective the gun was on the seat.”
“SDPD officers heard HATCH tell his security, ‘you told me they were in the bag,’” according to the federal complaint. “This statement demonstrated HATCH’s knowledge of the firearms in the Mercedes.”
Boosie’s lawyers say federal prosecutors are targeting the rapper because of his celebrity status and his criticism of the police, including him saying “F*** San Diego police.” They filed a motion to compel discovery that sought information about the decision to charge Boosie federally, saying it could help them prove that federal prosecutors were motivated by vindictiveness when they charged Boosie.
Their 23-page motion said the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office wouldn’t offer Boosie a deal, but San Diego County Superior Court Judge Dwayne K. Moring told Boosie’s lawyer in May he “would offer a non-custodial, probationary disposition” involving two years probation and a stayed jail sentence between 180 days and 365 days.
Instead, federal agents arrested Boosie in the courthouse hallway on June 13 “as Mr. Hatch was filling out his change of plea form with his counsel,” according to the motion.
Alimouri said Deputy District Attorney Matthew Carberry told his co-counsel at the time, Sharon Appelbaum, “that he did not like my client because he came to San Diego from another jurisdiction, committed a crime, and then led his fans in a ‘f*** the San Diego police’ chant.” The motion called Carberry’s statement “a shocking revelation.”
“Thereafter, I witnessed the Mr. Carberry walk past Mr. Hatch in the hallway in front of the courtroom. He nodded his head, grinned, and said, ‘So long’ arrogantly to Mr. Hatch,” Alimouri said.
“Mr. Hatch faces these charges as part of a rush to apprehend a wellknown rapper, a figurehead of the Black urban entertainment community, whose career has spanned more than two decades,” Blanco and Alimouri wrote. “Were it not for Mr. Hatch’s notoriety one can reasonably question whether the police would have surveilled Mr. Hatch with a helicopter and ultimately pulled him over with the pretext of a traffic violation for what could have easily been nothing more than a prop gun.”
The motion sought “emails, texts, or voicemails between prosecutorial agencies meant to expedite the process of convicting Mr. Hatch.”
“Quite arguably, the prosecution in the instant matter is nothing more than an act of governmental vindictiveness for Mr. Hatch taking advantage of his Constitutional Rights, namely to change his plea from not guilty to guilty in exchange for a bargain from the court and being quite outspoken as protected by the First Amendment, à la his quip “F*** the San Diego Police. It is quite alarming and too coincidental to indeed be coincidental that on the very morning that Mr. Hatch was set to enter a guilty plea in his state version of the instant matter, federal agents apprehended Mr. Hatch in the hallway of the state court.”
Prosecutors called the request “immaterial, overbroad, and vague” and said the San Diego County District Attorney’s decisions “have no bearing on the indictment returned by the Grand Jury.”
“Defendant makes speculative and unfounded assertions of what may, or may not, have occurred prior to his Federal Grand Jury’s indictment,” according to a seven-page opposition from Wheat and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandor Callahan.
Alimouri and Blanco also filed a motion to dismiss Boosie’s indictment that argued his felon in possession charge violates the right to bear arms under a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision’s interpretation of the Second Amendment. They said his felony convictions were for marijuana and called them “relatively minor indiscretions.”
“Following his release years ago, he has remained a gainfully employed, productive family man and hip-hop luminary, with no meaningful criminal record,” according to the motion. “Yet on account of two marijuana-related convictions, the government bars Mr. Hatch forever from possessing firearms. Application of the “felon in possession” ban against Mr. Hatch violates the Second Amendment.”
Prosecutors in their opposition said the court “never discussed felon-in-possession laws or called into question its prior statements about them” and the new order “actually reinforces earlier conclusions about felon-in-possession laws.”
Judge Bencivengo declined to dismiss the case in a brief Aug. 7 order that said other federal judges in San Diego already concluded the 2022 decision doesn’t end felon in possession of firearm law under 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals precedent.
“Nothing in Mr. Hatch’s motion persuades this Court that these holdings are incorrect or that the Court otherwise has the right to disregard binding Ninth Circuit precedent here,” the judge wrote.
Bencivengo called the motion “very interesting” during an Oct. 13 hearing but said she didn’t understand the argument that the communications sought “would indicate that there was shoddy or poor investigation.”
“This seemed pretty straightforward to me. I mean, it didn't really involve a whole lot of investigation,” she said, according to a court reporter’s transcript purchased by Legal Affairs and Trials.
But, Bencivengo added, “I think there's enough circumstantial evidence there to suggest there may be something worth looking at” and asked AUSA Wheat if he’d voluntarily surrender communications for her review.
Wheat agreed to do so but cautioned, “My belief is that there is no written or oral communications with the District Attorney’s Office.”
Judge Bencivengo said on Friday she found no indication in the “limited disclosures” “that this was done as some personal affront against Mr. Hatch.”
“It’s a legitimate charge in federal court,” she said. “There was evidence to support it. There was probable cause at the time to get the indictment.”
Alimouri replied that he’s not arguing prosecutors didn’t have probable cause; rather, he’s “just asking for discovery so as to buttress a potential claim of vindictiveness down the line.”
Judge Bencivengo asked Wheat if wanted to respond, and Wheat replied, “No, Your Honor.”
The judge chuckled.
“Maybe that wasn’t a rhetorical question,” she said.
“There’s nothing that I’ve seen in the correspondence where anyone called up and said, ‘Hey, friend, you know, we want you to screw this guy on the wall because the judge over here won't do it,’” Judge Bencivengo continued.
“I doubt that would be put in writing,” Alimouri said.
“But that’s kind of what you need here,” Bencivengo said.
Alimouri told the judge Boosie “would like to resolve his case. … But it’s been something of a challenge thus far.”
Prosecutors have apparently already offered a deal: Judge Bencivengo postponed Dec. 15 hearing “upon request from defense for time to review a recently received plea agreement.”
Alimouri declined to detail the offer to reporters on Friday.
“This prosecution is overblown, and exaggerated. I honestly personally don’t think that this would have gotten to the point that it’s gone to if it wasn’t Boosie,” Alimouri said. “Are they trying to make a point out of Boosie? That’s what it sounds like to me.”
Court documents in Boosie’s federal case are available below for paid subscribers. You can pay through the Substack option below or through through Venmo (MeghannCuniff), CashApp ($MeghannCuniff) and Zelle (firstname.lastname@example.org). Your paid subscriptions make my work possible.