Irv "Gotti" Lorenzo, CEO of the Inc., and brother Christopher were found not guilty of using their label to launder $1 million in drug money -- which the government had alleged was brought in by convicted Queens crack dealer Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff -- in Brooklyn federal court on Friday. The Lorenzos' record label, previously known as Murder Inc., was also acquitted. On hand at the courtroom to show support were Jay-Z, Russell Simmons, Fat Joe, and label stars Ja Rule and Ashanti.
According to the charges -- the result of a three-year federal investigation involving the FBI, IRS, and New York and Baltimore city police -- the Inc. was part of a crack and heroin business run by McGriff. McGriff, a founder of the "Supreme Team" drug gang currently in prison on a gun charge, finished serving nine years for drug conspiracy in 1997. The Inc. was founded under the name Murder Inc. that same year. The Lorenzos' lawyer has stated that the Inc. is financed through cash from Island Def Jam.
While the prosecution had argued that the brothers regularly accepted cash from McGriff and his associates, the defense denied the laundering charges, portraying the Inc.'s ties to McGriff as more informal. "It made sense to work with [McGriff] because he provided a certain street credibility," the Lorenzos' lawyer stated, according to reports. "He also provided a deterrence to shakedown artists and thugs."
One juror, who would not give his name, told reporters outside the courthouse that the jury had trouble finding the government's witnesses -- including a former Inc. intern, a self-professed pimp and a drug dealer -- credible.
The Gottis, meanwhile, were visibly thrilled, at one point embracing members of the jury. "I'm overjoyed," Irv Gotti stated outside the courthouse, with Ja Rule at his side. "In this case, the government had it 100 percent wrong. They went after me because of someone I know. I would never have worked this hard, from nothing to having millions of dollars, to jeopardize it with something stupid or illegal." If convicted, the Gottis faced up to twenty years in prison.
As for the future of the Inc., Gotti announced, "Me and my Inc. family, you're going to be hearing some music [from us]."