Like countless artists before him, San Diego-based rapper Brandon Duncan’s new album features a picture of a gun and bullets on its front cover. However Duncan, who raps under the name Tiny Doo, could be the first artist to go to jail for his choice of album art.
Duncan faces 25-years-to-life on gang conspiracy charges brought against him this week, according to the Los Angeles Times. Prosecutors will reportedly look to prove that the album art “willfully promotes, furthers, or assists in any felonious criminal conduct by members of that gang.”
“That gang” refers to the San Diego Lincoln Park gang, of which Duncan is a member, according to San Diego police. According to the Times, at least 15 Lincoln Park gang members have been charged in a recent string of shootings in the city.
Yet Duncan’s attorney, Brian Watkins, told the paper that his client is innocent and the evidence against him insufficient.
“It’s no different than Snoop Dogg or Tupac,” Watkins said. “It’s telling the story of street life. If we are trying to criminalize artistic expression, what’s next, Brian DePalma and Al Pacino?”
“It’s shocking,” Watkins told CounterCurrentNews. “He has no criminal record. Nothing in his lyrics say ‘go out and commit a crime.’ Nothing in his lyrics reference these shootings, yet they are holding him liable for conspiracy. There are huge constitutional issues.”
Duncan is able to be charged with gang conspiracy under a seldom-invoked 2000 law that allows for those charges based on “promoting” or encouraging felonious gang activity. Duncan’s attorney called the charges “absolutely unconstitutional,” and promised a fight.
Deputy District Attorney Anthony Campagna disagrees.
“We’re not just talking about an album of anything, of love songs,” Campagna reportedly told the judge in court. “There is a revolver with bullets” on the album cover, he noted.
Duncan is currently in county jail in lieu of $1 million bail, with his trial reportedly set to begin December 4. If convicted, he faces 25-years-to-life in prison.