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Will Smith Defends Slick Rick

July 27, 2002

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LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Will Smith has come to the defense of fellow rapper ``Slick Rick″ Walters, who could face deportation because he was convicted of attempted murder 11 years ago.

``I have know Rick for over 15 years,″ Smith wrote in a letter to the Immigration and Naturalization Service that was cited Saturday by the Los Angeles Times. ``While I’m aware of his past problems, I’ve also had the pleasure to watch him develop into a good person.″

Comedian Chris Rock, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and New York state Sen. David Paterson also have lent their support, the Times reported.

Walters, 37, is a legal resident but not a U.S. citizen. He served more than five years in prison for a 1991 shooting in New York. U.S. law requires the deportation of any non-citizen who serves more than five years in a U.S. prison.

The British-born rapper was arrested by immigration officials last month in Miami aboard a cruise ship that had hired him to perform. He is in custody in Florida pending an immigration hearing.

``I don’t believe I’m a bad person,″ he told the newspaper. ``The whole incident was years ago. I’ve been out and six years crime-free. All this now seems like an extreme measure.″

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