The rapper formerly known as Loon is getting out of federal prison on Wednesday due to the coronavirus pandemic following a long celebrity campaign urging President Trump to release him.
US District Judge Terrence Boyle converted his sentence to time served, finding the virus was an “extraordinary and compelling” reason and that he was not a danger to society.
Chauncey Hawkins, 45, served more than eight years for his role in a heroin-dealing conspiracy. He was scheduled to be released in August 2021.
Supporters say Hawkins only made an introduction in the drug deal and that he turned his life around.
There is no indication Trump had anything to do with his release, but a letter signed by more than a dozen celebrities, including R&B musician Faith Evans, VH1 reality star Benzino and Tupac bandmate Mutah “Napoleon” Beale, urged Trump to free Loon. Mary J Blige and Snoop Dogg later joined the effort.
In the early 2000s, Hawkins was a rising star with P. Diddy’s Bad Boy Records. Hawkins appeared in the 2002 hit song “I Need a Girl (Part One)” with Usher and P. Diddy. He released the song “How You Want That” as part of his own 2003 album “Loon,” which featured Missy Elliot and “Milkshake” singer Kelis.
Friend Weldon Angelos, a music producer and former associate of Snoop Dogg, personally wrote Hawkins’ 34-page request for freedom.
“He’s just another young black male who got a long time because of the war on drugs,” Angelos said.
The successful request invoked health issues and the Trump-signed First Step Act’s expansion of compassionate release.
Weldon also led the efforts to persuade Trump to grant clemency, which at one point included plans to bring a delegation of rap stars to the White House. Those plans were scuttled first by Trump’s impeachment and then by the pandemic.
But Weldon believes the presidential lobbying drive may have impressed the judge.
“We showed that this man had a ton of support and is going to do a lot of positive things,” he said.
After he’s released, the former rapper plans to work on prisoner rehabilitation programming, Angelos said. The men also have plans to form a production company, which may release a movie or TV series on Loon’s life.
Loon quit the music industry in 2008 and converted to Islam, adopting the name Amir Junaid Muhadith. In 2011, his former lifestyle caught up with him with an indictment for conspiracy to distribute more than one kilogram of heroin.
“He basically rehabilitated himself three years before he was indicted,” Angelos said.
Angelos himself became a nationally known figure when a federal judge sentenced him to 55 years in prison for selling $300 worth of marijuana due to mandatory firearms enhancements. The judge said his hands were tied and campaigned for his release. Conservatives such as Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Charles Koch joined the cause. Angelos was released in 2016 after 13 years in prison.
Angelos said that he believes celebrity connections worked against both him and Hawkins. “It was a little bit like with me. I was working with Snoop Dogg and I had little bits of weed on me,” he said.