NEW YORK, DEC. 1 -- Tupac Shakur, the 23-year-old rapper notorious for his violent lyrics and frequent brushes with the law, was convicted today by a Manhattan jury of first-degree sexual abuse but was acquitted of more serious sodomy and weapons charges.
The verdict against the rapper and his road manager, 24-year-old Charles Fuller, came down less than two days after Shakur was shot five times by three assailants outside a Times Square recording studio. Earlier today, a heavily sedated Shakur, who was not present for the verdict, appeared in the courtroom in a wheelchair, wearing a white bandage around his head. He was flanked by his mother and actress Jasmine Guy of "A Different World."
Shakur is scheduled to appear in court Monday, when a sentencing date is expected to be set.
Shakur's conviction is only one of numerous legal troubles that the rapper has encountered over the past three years. While earning a kind of cult status for his two best-selling albums and three searing film appearances, he also faced criminal charges five times for, among other things, a gunfight with two off-duty Atlanta police officers and an assault on a fellow rapper with a baseball bat.
Today's sexual abuse conviction stems from an incident a year ago in a New York City hotel room. A woman who Shakur had met in a Greenwich Village nightclub -- and who had willingly performed fellatio on him on the dance floor -- alleged that Shakur and several of his bodyguards had engaged in sodomy and forcible sexual abuse when she met Shakur several days later in his room at the Parker Meridien Hotel in midtown Manhattan. When police came to investigate the allegation, they also found a handgun and filed a weapons charge against Shakur.
Shakur's defense in the beginning was that the sex was consensual. Then, outside the courthouse Tuesday when the closing arguments were completed, he maintained to reporters that the woman had actually assaulted him.
"Just because I don't want to be with that girl don't mean she has the right to say I did all these things she said I did," Shakur told reporters. "It was her who sodomized me."
The jury today found Shakur innocent of the weapons and sodomy charges. But it found both men guilty of sexual abuse, which is defined as nonconsensual groping and touching. The two men each face a sentence of 28 months to seven years. Shakur's lawyer, Michael Warren, immediately said he would appeal the verdict.
Still, Warren was pleased. "We're ecstatic," he said, adding that he was happy that the jury "kept an open mind."
The verdict came after a bizarre week even for Shakur, who has the phrase "Thug Life" tattoed on his chest and was once interviewed on MTV with a 9mm pistol tucked in his waistband. Just after midnight Wednesday morning, Shakur was entering a Times Square recording studio with three friends when three gunmen accosted them, yelled "Give it up" and grabbed some $45,000 worth of diamond rings and gold chains. According to police, Shakur lunged at one of the men and was shot five times in the ensuing struggle -- in the hand, the head and the groin.
In one of the many strange twists in the case, the officer who raced to the scene after Shakur's friends called 911 was the same officer who arrested him a year ago in the hotel.
"Hi, Officer McKernan," Shakur reportedly said when he saw the policeman.
Though police officials described the incident as simply another Times Square mugging, Shakur became convinced it was a setup. Hours after he underwent surgery Wednesday afternoon at Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital, Shakur's mother -- former Black Panther Afeni Shakur -- came and checked him out, against doctors' orders.
"Bellevue was not secure, and Shakur was afraid for his life," one of his attorneys, Robert Ellis, told reporters. "The place was crawling with cops who wanted to speak to him, and Shakur doesn't trust them."
The rapper appeared in the courtroom today wearing a bulletproof vest and washing down painkillers with mineral water.
According to the New York Daily News, Shakur was wheeled out of the courtroom by seven Nation of Islam bodyguards. He later checked into Metropolitan Hospital under an alias.
CAPTION: Rapper Tupac Shakur attended his trial in a wheelchair after being shot five times early Wednesday morning but left before the verdict to seek medical treatment.