If Larry Recio listened to Will Smith instead of Atlanta rapper Bloody Jay, he might still be a free man.
But according to a recent 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, Recio’s Facebook post “It’s Always Tucked, Kuz I’ll B Damn If My Life Get Took!!” — apparently lyrics boosted from a Bloody Jay song — helped send him to federal prison.
According to police, officers patrolling Prince George’s County, Maryland, in May 2015 saw Recio, whom they knew had active warrants, and gave chase. They claim to have also noticed a firearm protruding from his waistband. Recio managed to get away that day, but cops recovered the loaded pistol that they reportedly saw him toss.
Recio was arrested a month later.
During trial, the government introduced the Facebook post, made in January 2016 (eight months after the incident), as evidence, contending that it showed his propensity for carrying weapons.
Recio argued that the post was inadmissible hearsay; that those who quote rap lyrics rarely adopt the rapper’s views, “puffery and braggadocio.” The court found that while some folks recite lyrics simply because they like a song, others are expressing a view. Essentially, it’s case-by-case.
Recio also contended that the post was not relevant, offering that one can sing “I shot the sheriff,” without actually having shot the sheriff. The court acknowledged the possibility, but cited a 5th Circuit case, Smith v. Quarterman, in which a defendant sang a similar lyric and did, in fact, shoot a sheriff’s deputy.
“[T]hat example only reinforces the fact-specific nature of this inquiry,” the court wrote.
Ultimately, the court found that rap lyrics can be relevant if they match the details of an alleged crime. Here, Recio had his pistol “tucked,” presumably because he didn’t want to get his life “took.”
To this rap aficionado’s knowledge, no one has ever snitched on themselves by quoting lyrics from Summertime or The Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme — there’s nothing illegal about hustling to the mall to get yourself a short set or shooting some b-ball outside of the school.
Records show that Recio has three years left to serve inside a West Virginia penitentiary. Reportedly, Bloody Jay is also behind bars, his YouTube fanbase hypothesizing that he violated probation again.
So, while transitioning from the acquired taste of Bloody Jay to something less explicit may or may not be feasible, this Sidebar reporter believes that we can all agree that going forward — in light of the court’s ruling, if for no other reason — that plastering incriminating evidence on one’s social media page will be discouraged by any defense attorney worth his or her salt.
Note: Sidebar must presume that Recio did not possess a valid Maryland wear and carry permit. Otherwise, tucking his weapon would not have constituted a crime.