Rapper DMX sentenced to one year in prison for tax fraud, after his song played in courtroom

Before being sentenced, DMX, whose real name is Earl Simmons, said he was sorry for having failed to pay taxes.
Before being sentenced, DMX, whose real name is Earl Simmons, said he was sorry for having failed to pay taxes.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Rap artist and actor DMX was sentenced to one year in prison on Wednesday (March 28) after he pleaded guilty in a federal case accusing him of dodging US$1.7 million  (S$2.23 million) in taxes.

DMX, whose real name is Earl Simmons, was sentenced by United States District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan. He had pleaded guilty to one count of tax fraud in November.

Rakoff said he believed Simmons was "a good man" and that the sentence should be modest, explaining why he gave less than the five years sought by prosecutors.

Nonetheless, the judge said: "It cannot go unpunished."

Before being sentenced, Simmons said he was sorry for having failed to pay taxes. His lawyer also played part of Simmons' 1998 song Slippin' in the courtroom, describing difficulties he has faced.

"They put me in a situation forcing me to be a man/ When I was just learning to stand without a helping hand," Simmons raps in the song.

His lawyers had argued in court filings that a difficult upbringing left Simmons unprepared to deal with the responsibility that came with financial success.

Prosecutors said he avoided taxes between 2000 and 2005 by shifting money among accounts belonging to managers and associates, hiding millions of dollars he earned from hit songs, including X Gon' Give It To Ya and Where The Hood At.

Simmons, 47, was arrested in July. He has been in jail since January, when Rakoff revoked his bail after he failed a drug test and travelled to St. Louis without a court-mandated drug counsellor.

Prosecutors said Simmons avoided taxes for years by living a cash-only lifestyle, depositing royalty checks in various bank accounts belonging to other people. When he pleaded guilty, Simmons said those accounts were held by multiple managers, his ex-wife and one of his children's mothers.

He has 15 children by multiple women.

Before the tax charges, he had an arrest record including charges of animal cruelty, reckless driving, drug possession, weapons possession and probation violations. He has had several felony convictions and served prison time in Arizona.

Along with his rap career, Simmons has starred in such films as the 1998 crime drama Belly, the 2000 action movie Romeo Must Die and the 2003 heist film Cradle 2 The Grave.