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Rapper Held Without Bond Will Miss Tour

July 14, 2003

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Beanie Sigel’s clothing line boasts hidden pockets and gun holsters designed, he says, to withstand a police chase.

``You know how you put your gun in your waistline and you gotta worry about it slipping? With these clothes, you don’t got to worry about that,″ the rapper told allhiphop.com last year. ``Don’t worry about having to run from the police neither, because State Property (clothing) can stand the search.″

But run he did, authorities say, ditching his 2002 Cadillac Escalade when police tried to make a traffic stop on April 20. Sigel also opted against the hidden-pocket trick, allegedly tossing a loaded semiautomatic handgun during a foot chase through the South Philadelphia streets where he grew up.

On Monday, Sigel, whose two solo albums have sold over 500,000 copies each, was ordered held without bond pending trial on a federal weapons charge. That will keep him off the summer ``Roc the Mic″ tour with Jay-Z and other Roc-A-Fella label stars.

Sigel, who was referred to in court by his given name, Dwight Grant, neither testified nor spoke during the brief hearing in U.S. District Court. His mother sobbed and wailed as he was led off in handcuffs.

The order came despite pleas from Sigel’s mentor, Jay-Z, who briefly took the stand to ask that Sigel be allowed to keep his freedom and continue touring this summer.

``Here’s a kid who starts getting arrested when he’s 14 years old. ... And what he’s doing now, at 29, he’s straddling that line,″ said Philadelphia Police Lt. Michael Chitwood, who waited backstage to arrest Sigel on an attempted-murder charge during a July 3 tour stop in Camden, N.J.

``He has a God-given talent,″ Chitwood said. ``But he’s refusing to cross that line and leave the thug element behind.″

Sigel’s longtime criminal lawyer, Fortunato Perri Jr., has said his client is ``prepared to defend himself against all allegations.″

The rapper’s 2000 debut album, ``Truth,″ and the 2001 follow-up, ``Reason,″ both reached No. 5 on the Billboard 200 album chart and No. 2 on Billboard’s R&B-Hip-Hop list. Critics have praised Sigel’s unique voice and sharp yet flowing lyrics.

When Sigel auditioned for Roc-A-Fella, ``we signed him on the spot,″ label co-founder Damon Dash recalled Friday.

``Most of the things he speaks about are things he’s either seen or been a part of, so (fans) take him as being very honest,″ Dash said.

Sigel, who took his stage name from his childhood address on Sigel Street, writes gritty, gangster lyrics that talk of smoking marijuana but also of the smell of his mother’s stewed chicken and the dream of moving to the suburbs.

Sigel recently bought a nearly $400,000 Colonial on a quiet suburban street, police said, although he remains a presence at the South Philadelphia row house of his mother, Michelle Brown.

Brown and Perri were the only people accompanying him in federal court last Wednesday, when Sigel was charged with being a felon in possession of a handgun for the April traffic stop. The charge stems from Sigel’s 1996 guilty plea to drug possession with intent to deliver, for which he received probation.

The agents arrested Sigel at the end of a state court hearing, in which a 53-year-old man testified that the 5-foot-9, 260-pound rapper had punched him in both eyes, breaking his left eye socket, during a January argument outside a Chinese restaurant. The judge dropped a felony charge but set an August trial on two misdemeanor assault charges.

Also Monday, Sigel had a preliminary hearing on the attempted murder charge. Police say Sigel fired five or six shots at 26-year-old Terrance Speller, striking him twice and nearly killing him, outside a West Philadelphia strip club on July 1. Speller remains hospitalized under police protection, Chitwood said.

Perri has said Sigel denied any role in the shooting.

Several prior assault charges against Sigel were dropped over the years when the victims failed to show up for court. They include a woman who said Sigel poured soda on her and threatened her with a gun and a driver who said the rapper pummeled him when he beeped at a crowd to get out of the street.

The charge that Sigel was jailed for without bail is the first federal case he’s ever faced. He could get nearly three years in prison if convicted. That could make it tough to promote his third solo album, ``The B-Coming,″ due out in September.

``I hope he learns from this that he has to stay away from the neighborhood,″ said Tony Irick, a barber who used to cut Sigel’s hair. Sigel would often sit in a corner and jot down rhymes in a notebook, long before he ever cut a CD, Irick said.

``I was proud he’s from the ’hood,″ said customer ``Tiny″ Christian, who said she’s disappointed that Sigel can’t seem to stay out of trouble. ``I’m sorry what happened to him, but he did it to himself.″


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