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T.I. to return to prison for 11 more months



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T.I. helped talk a jumper down from a Midtown building earlier this week, but on Friday he could not talk a federal judge into giving him another chance to stay out of prison.

Declaring that T.I. "has had about the limit of second chances," U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell Jr. sentenced the rapper and movie actor  to 11 more months in prison for violating his probation. He will begin serving his time at a later date.

T.I. to return to prison for 11 more months photo

T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris Jr., asked for leniency.

"I screwed up," said Harris, wearing a three-piece gray suit. "I screwed up bigtime, and I'm sorry. I'm truly and sincerely sorry. I don't want and I don't need to use drugs anymore. I want them out of my life."

But Pannell was unmoved.

T.I. to return to prison for 11 more months photo
David Goldman

"The worst thing is this case was an experiment," Pannell said. The judge said he hoped the extraordinary sentence Harris initially received would work and could be adapted for use in other cases.

But then Pannell looked at Harris and said: "You certainly dumped a lot of smut on the whole experiment."

Pannell had sentenced Harris to a year and a day in prison for his 2007 arrest on weapons charges. The unprecedented deal shaved almost four years off a potential sentence, provided Harris perform 1,000 hours of community service. The service, which he completed, consisted largely of visits with schoolchildren to speak out against violence, gangs and drugs.

Harris finished his time in prison and a halfway house earlier this year and was still on probation when he was arrested Sept. 1 in Los Angeles. He and his wife, Tameka "Tiny" Cottle, were taken into custody during a traffic stop in West Hollywood in which deputies said they smelled a strong odor of marijuana from inside the car. They were soon released on bond.

U.S. Attorney Sally Yates said she was a strong proponent of the initial deal and believed Harris had reached large numbers of youth and made a big difference.

"We hoped he would demonstrate he'd turned his life around and serve as an excellent role model -- that he was someone who was living what he was preaching," she said.

But Yates told Pannell the rapper had already had submitted two diluted urine samples before his arrest and initially lied to a probation officer about the five pills of ecstasy found his pants pocket when he was arrested. He first said the pants belonged to a designer, then said they were his brother's, Yates said.

In the back seat of the car Harris was driving sat Cortez Thomas, a convicted felon who was the middleman in the undercover weapons deal that got Harris in trouble in the first place, Yates said. Thomas also was arrested this year on ecstasy and marijuana distribution charges while driving Harris' car, she said, noting that inside the vehicle police found large quantities of cash and a gun.

Harris also submitted to a drug test after the arrest and tested positive for opiates, Yates noted.

Yates asked Pannell to sentence the defendant to two years in prison.

Harris' lawyers reminded Pannell that the rapper helped talk a man down from the top of a building on Wednesday. They called for Atlanta Police Officer James Polite, who told Pannell he was there when it happened and believed the rapper was "very instrumental" in talking the man down.

"I don't believe it was a stunt of any kind," Polite said.

Ed Garland, one of Harris' lawyers, said the rapper has long been addicted to drugs, and after having seven root canals and three teeth extracted early this year began taking prescription painkillers that "brought back an experience he had escaped from."

Harris took some and kept some for later, and he also began using ecstasy with his wife and drinking prescription cough medicine mixed with soda water.

"Progressively, slowly, he went off the wagon," Garland said. "He wasn't being a bad person, except to himself."

Defense attorney Steve Sadow asked Pannell to sentence Harris to six months' home confinement and allow him to be admitted into an inpatient rehabilitation program. After that, he would receive more therapy and submit to urine screens three times a week.

But Pannell said he would have imposed a longer sentence the first time if he had known Harris was going to be back in court as he was Friday.

Pannell told Harris that he will be on probation again after his release from prison and could get up to three years more time if he commits another offense. And he told the rapper that while on probation the next time, he is not to drive a car.

"He is not going to be found cruising the streets of L.A. again ... while serving my sentence," the judge said.

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