Chief Keef in custody for probation violation; sentencing hearing set
BY FRANK MAIN Staff Reporteremail@example.com January 15, 2013 3:04PM
Chief Keef (Keith Cozart) arrives at court, Tuesday, January 15, 2013. | Brian Jackson~Sun Times
Updated: February 17, 2013 6:30AM
Rising Chicago rapper Chief Keef nestled the butt of a Ruger 10/22 semiautomatic rifle against his shoulder and squeezed off a burst of bullets.
The markmanship demonstration was videotaped in June at a New York gun range as part of a promotion for the 17-year-old musician.
But on Tuesday, the video came back to haunt Keef, whose real name is Keith Cozart. He was thrown in jail after a Cook County juvenile court judge decided the video was evidence of a probation violation.
“There is a clear record of a disregard for the court’s authority,” Judge Carl Anthony Walker said. He scheduled a sentencing hearing for Thursday.
Last January, Cozart was sentenced to 18 months of probation after he was convicted of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon for pointing a gun at Chicago Police officers.
As a condition of his probation, the judge had ordered Cozart not to have contact with guns, gangs or drugs.
Cozart, who wore camouflage pants, a black, hooded sweatshirt and yellow Timberland boots on Tuesday, was mum as deputies led him out of court with his hands cuffed behind his back. Outside court, his manager told reporters: “You can kiss my ass.”
Also Tuesday, prosecutors presented new evidence involving Cozart’s living arrangements.
They said a relative of Cozart is renting a home in upscale Northbrook and Cozart’s name is on the lease — even though the rapper told his probation officer that he was living in south suburban Dolton.
At a previous hearing, the judge was told that Cozart’s manager owns the home.
“It’s just more lies,” said Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Jullian Brevard.
But Cozart’s attorney, Dennis Berkson, insisted that his client’s primary residence is in Dolton and that he’s recording his second album in a studio set up in the Northbrook home. Cozart’s debut studio album, “Finally Rich,” was released in December to mixed reviews.
Berkson also told the judge that Cozart didn’t violate the spirit of his probation restrictions when he fired the gun at the New York range.
The video shows Cozart — wearing white-framed sunglasses — sitting in a classroom gun-safety lecture. Later, he’s on the range, wearing blue ear muffs and admiring the holes he has just fired into the chest of a paper target. He spent about 20 minutes firing the rifle, a range worker testified.
Berkson said Cozart never took the gun outside of the range and the target practice was under the strict supervision of a trainer.
“Was it stupid? Yes. Did it violate the court order? No,” Berkson told the judge.
Berkson added that his teenage client was simply doing the bidding of his record company, Interscope, which arranged the target practice as part of a promotional tour.
But Brevard responded that the young rapper can’t use the record company as an excuse. The company doesn’t have the power to supersede a court order, he said, telling the judge: “You are above Interscope Records. You are above Chief Keef.”
The judge, meanwhile, responded to Berkson’s argument that the target practice occurred on private property — and not on the street. If Cozart had handled a gun inside a home, he still would have been found guilty of a probation violation, the judge said.
Cozart also was in the news last year after another young South Side rapper, Joseph “Lil JoJo” Coleman, was shot to death. The rappers were in an online war of words before the killing in September, but Cozart hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing in Coleman’s death.