T.I. was arrested early on Wednesday outside of the gated community where he lives, according to a statement police gave to an Atlanta TV station. The rapper was charged with public drunkenness, simple assault and disorderly conduct.
Police from Henry County, located just outside Atlanta, said to local media that T.I. (whose legal name is Clifford Harris Jr.) did not have his key when he tried to return home at 4 a.m. A security guard wouldn’t let him in the community, and at some point T.I. called a friend. Both then argued with the guard, and when police arrived, they arrested both men.
According to WSB-TV in Atlanta, police say that T.I. at one point asked the guard, “Don’t you know who I am?”
“Tip was wrongfully arrested,” Harris’s attorney Steve Sadow said in a statement to the media on Wednesday, referring to the rapper by one of his nicknames. Sadow said that T.I. had a different version of events: that the guard was “asleep” when Harris arrived at the guardhouse to try to go home.
“It took Tip some time to wake up the sleeping guard,” Sadow wrote. “Tip clearly identified himself and sought entry. The guard refused entry. Tip was in contact with [his wife] ‘Tiny’ by phone and ‘Tiny’ confirmed that Tip should be let in immediately. The guard continued to refuse entry without justification. Words were exchanged and apparently the guard and/or a supervisor called the police. When the police arrived, they were not interested in hearing Tip’s side of the story and wrongfully chose to end the situation by arresting Tip.”
In an interview with the Blast after his arrest, T.I. said that he got into a “very heated debate” with the guard, but that there was no physical confrontation. “Simple assault,” in Georgia state law, does not require a physical assault to take place, just “reasonable apprehension” of receiving a “violent injury.”
T.I., who has since been released, also described local law enforcement as “white cops in a very white area,” though he noted that the guard was black.
The Washington Post left a message with Henry County Police Deputy Mike Ireland seeking more information.
The news of the entertainer’s arrest came as a surprise to those familiar with his past legal woes.
Long before he scored the hits “Rubber Band Man” and “24s” in 2003 and became a famous rapper, T.I. spent his early years as a drug dealer and was arrested several times before he turned 14 — which proved to be only the beginning of his dance with the law.
He was convicted of possession of crack cocaine with the intent to distribute in 1998 — a felony drug charge. Six years later, he was sentenced to three years in prison for violating the terms of his probation.
His most famous arrest came in Atlanta in October 2007 — just hours before the then-27-year-old was scheduled to perform at the BET Hip Hop Awards — for attempting to pick up several automatic weapons that his bodyguard had purchased for him. The deal turned out to be a sting. His bodyguard, to whom T.I. had given $12,000 to buy three machine guns and two silencers, had become an informant.
The rapper was charged with possession of unregistered machine guns and silencers, as well as possession of firearms by a felon. He struck a plea bargain that required him to pay a $100,300 fine and spend one year and one day in prison, along with performing 1,500 hours of community service.
The unique deal allowed him to remain out of prison for one year before his incarceration as he mentored at-risk children at 58 schools, 12 Boys & Girls Clubs, nine churches and many other nonprofit organizations, CNN reported.
“I would like to say thank you to some and apologize to others,” Harris said at his sentencing. “In my life, I have been placed in the worst-case scenario and had to make the best of it. Most often, things I have learned have been from trial and error. I knew no way to protect myself than to arm myself.”
He mined the experience for inspiration, leading to one of his most popular records: 2008’s “Paper Trail,” which featured Kanye West, Jay-Z, Rihanna, Lil Wayne and Justin Timberlake. He also gained the admiration of former Atlanta mayor and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, who spoke to the court on his behalf.
Though then-U.S. attorney Sally Yates supported the plea deal, she said T.I. didn’t follow the rules of his probation in the year leading up to his imprisonment; after his arrest, he tested positive for opiates, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported. In October 2010, he was sentenced to 11 more months in prison for this violation.
Since then, however, the rapper has been vocal about living within the law. He lent his celebrity to politics, loudly supporting Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who later appointed him and fellow rapper Killer Mike to her transition team. He was also given the key to Jackson, Miss., in 2014 for his aggressive fundraising to help rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina.
“Just knowing that I can use my past — good and bad — to help assist the future, the children, the teenagers, the young adults, and the grown people who may have to go through the same thing” is rewarding, he said at the ceremony. “Just because I fell in something, it doesn’t mean I have to stay down in it.”
Most recently, he debated politics with Kanye West in the song “Ye vs. the People.”