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Judge declines to jail Chief Keef after ‘no credible evidence’

Chief Keef (Keith Cozart) as he leaves Juvenile Court. Wednesday January 2 2013. I Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

Chief Keef (Keith Cozart) as he leaves Juvenile Court. Wednesday, January 2, 2013. I Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 4, 2013 2:48PM

Over and over, prosecutors have tried to put Chicago rapper Chief Keef behind bars for allegedly violating his probation.

On Wednesday, the 17-year-old musician managed to stay out of jail again.

Cook County Juvenile Court Judge Carl Anthony Walker said he found “no credible evidence” the rapper was living in upscale Northbrook — instead of the address in south suburban Dolton that he gave his probation officer.

Chief Keef, whose real name is Keith Cozart, is on probation for pointing a gun at Chicago Police officers. Last month, he released a new album “Finally Rich” to mixed reviews.

The judge allowed Cozart to remain free until a Jan. 28 hearing involving the Northbrook allegation as well as Cozart’s alleged visit to a gun range. Prosecutors say he’s shown holding a gun in a videotaped trip to a New York range in April — a probation violation because he’s not supposed to possess firearms.

On Wednesday, a probation officer testified that she left phone messages for Cozart between Dec. 18 and Dec. 31 — but he didn’t respond.

His uncle returned a text message on Dec. 18 saying they were at a shopping center in Northbrook, the probation officer said. But neither Cozart nor his uncle notified the probation officer that he was living in Northbrook, prosecutors said.

Cozart is required to notify his probation officer about his movements, prosecutors said.

A police report shows Northbrook officers visited a home in the suburb on Dec. 10 and the rapper told them he was staying there with an uncle, prosecutors said.

Cozart was supposed to be living in Dolton, prosecutors said. Authorities visited the Dolton home and neighbors said Cozart doesn’t live there anymore, prosecutors said.

Cozart’s lawyer Dennis Berkson called the attempt to jail his client ridiculous.

The rapper was working at a manager’s home in Northbrook in a recording studio set up there, Berkson said. Cozart may have slept there overnight but his permanent residence is still in Dolton, he said.

“He’s working — he’s done what he’s supposed to do,” Berkson said of his client.

He added that police visited the Northbrook home as a “courtesy” to let Cozart know people were driving past, taking pictures. Police notified Cozart of the potential for trouble, his lawyer said.

Cozart stood silently before the judge in a dark parka with a fur-lined hood and tan pants.

Outside court, his grandmother, Margaret Carter, said she thinks authorities are harassing him because of his recent success.

“Chicago don’t love its own,” she said. “They don’t care who they hurt — and it’s hurting me.”

In September, a fellow teen rapper, Joseph “Lil JoJo” Coleman, was shot to death following a war of words with Cozart on Twitter. Sources say Cozart has ties to the Black Disciples street gang, while Coleman was linked to a faction of the Gangster Disciples. Police are investigating whether Coleman’s killing was a result of a conflict between the gangs, but Cozart hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing in the case.

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