DMX faces the music: serenaded by judge, gets year in prison

NEW YORK (AP) -- A judge heard a DMX rap song before adding his own lyrics to a court proceeding on Wednesday, ordering the rapper imprisoned for a year in a tax fraud case.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff took requests, accommodating DMX's desire to hear his autobiographical hit "Slippin'" before DMX faced the music over his admission of guilt. The judge called DMX's fraud a "brazen and blatant" crime that could not go unpunished.

The 47-year-old rapper, known to law enforcement and the courts as Earl Simmons, has been incarcerated since his bail was revoked in January. He sobbed during the proceeding as his lawyer Murray Richman recalled his nightmarish childhood.

"I never went to the level of tax evasion where I'd sit down and plot ... like a criminal in a comic book," DMX said when given an opportunity to address the court.

He said, at times getting choked up, that he "wasn't following the rules."

DMX, whose albums include "It's Dark And Hell Is Hot" and "Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood," recalled that the judge ordered him imprisoned in January for failing to obey bail restrictions that had allowed him to continue performing concerts while he received treatment for drug addictions.

"It woke me up," he said.

Before that, he said: "I was in a cloud. I wasn't thinking straight."

Richman said DMX, who has appeared in movies such as "Last Hour" and "Romeo Must Die," has been a model prisoner. Still, prosecutors sought five years in prison for him, citing a lengthy rap sheet and drugs.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Cooper said DMX engaged in tax fraud for six years after having paid taxes previously.

"He essentially went off the grid at a certain time," the prosecutor said.

Richman said he wanted his client free to support his 15 children and pay back nearly $2.3 million in taxes that are part of a restitution order.

Another defense lawyer, Stacey Richman, called DMX "the American dream," saying he raised himself out of the ghetto with music that was so inspirational that a former Troy homeless woman called the lawyers to say that hearing one of his songs stopped her from killing herself. The woman now is married and raising a child, Stacey Richman said.

As "Slippin'" played in the packed courtroom, DMX nodded his head slightly to the beat while some of his supporters nodded more enthusiastically.

Murray Richman got choked up as he spoke of his client, saying he felt terrorized after listening to DMX describe his childhood to a probation officer for six hours.

"I've never seen a more horrific background in my life," he said, describing physical and psychological abuse that left DMX's teeth knocked out and led him to repeated encounters with the law at an early age.

The judge said that in the court's view DMX "is a good man."

"In many ways," the judge said, "he's his own worst enemy."