Rapper ODB Jailed for Body Armor
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Rap star ODB was jailed on $115,000 bail Wednesday on charges that he violated a new state law that bans violent felons from wearing body armor.
The lawyer for Russell Jones, the real name of the 30-year-old singer for the hip hop group Wu Tang Clan, argued that he needed the protection because of his fame. Jones pleaded innocent.
``Due to how famous he is, he’s at risk for his life,″ said Deputy Public Defender Mearl Lottman. ``He has been in gunbattles and that’s why he was wearing body armor. He was wearing it for his own protection.″
Lottman noted that police in New York shot at Jones in January. A grand jury last month dismissed attempted murder charges brought against him in that incident.
Prosecutors suggested that Jones was a danger.
``There is an issue of public safety here,″ said Deputy District Attorney Mary Ganahl. ``The danger is to the community. He can go into the community and not worry about the police.″
Ganahl also suggested that Jones is the head of a street gang named Wu-Tang Clan.
``I think that is a musical group,″ Municipal Court Judge Kevin Brown said with a smile. ``I have three children. That’s why I know that.″
Jones filed a statement with the court saying he could not afford a lawyer. The court accepted the statement but will examine Jones’ resources before appointing him a permanent lawyer.
The law was enacted after a 1997 bank robbery in North Hollywood, when armor-clad gunmen with automatic weapons wounded more than a dozen officers and civilians. Both gunmen were killed at the scene.
The law seeks to protect police from assailants who can shoot without fear of return fire.
Opponents said it could leave the vulnerable unprotected and infringes on the right of citizens to protect themselves.
``The law is well-intentioned but misguided,″ said Erwin Chemerinsky, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Southern California. ``People might feel the need for protection for so many reasons other than wanting to commit a crime.″
Ganahl said there was no constitutional issue because anyone can wear a bulletproof vest, as long as they haven’t been convicted of a serious felony. Exceptions can also be made upon petition to the local police or sheriff.
Jones was convicted of second-degree assault in New York in 1993. He also faces trial on two Los Angeles felony charges _ that he threatened to kill the mother of his 1-year-old child and that he made death threats to guards at a nightclub.
Jones has also been accused of shoplifting in Virginia and of being a deadbeat dad, according to police.
In the body armor case, he was arrested in Hollywood on Feb. 16 when he parked in a no-parking zone and police found he was wearing a bulletproof vest.