On Wednesday at 10am, Daniel Hernandez — better known as Tekashi 6ix9ine — will be sentenced. The controversial rapper, who rose to prominence in 2017 before being arrested on federal racketeering charges in 2018, currently faces 37 years to life in prison. However, since cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s office following his arrest, it’s possible, or even likely, according to some following the trial closely, that he will be sentenced to time served, and walk free after his sentencing.
Despite a flurry of headlines and online discussion, Tekashi’s release is not certain. While he did cooperate with the federal investigation, testifying against his former crew in the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods, that cooperation does not guarantee a light sentence. Instead, his testimony earned him a 51K letter, which states that the witness assisted with an investigation and typically comes with a recommendation for a lighter sentence. The judge may take that letter into consideration, but does not automatically lead to any specific outcome. Tekashi could walk free on Wednesday, be sentenced to life in prison, or anything in between; it all depends on Judge Paul Engelmayer.
At the center of the case is an overlapping series of nine charges for gun possession, attempted murder, and gang activity. As detailed in a January Rolling Stone report, Tekashi began his chaotic rise in the SoundCloud rap scene of the mid-2010s, transforming from a bodega employee in Bushwick, Brooklyn, to a heavily tattooed, permanently online provocateur, releasing wildly popular music in between courting attention on social media. Prior to his biggest hits, he began to associate with the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods, a New York City gang. His breakthrough hit, “Gummo,” features the gang’s imagery prominently; the video is awash in red bandannas.
Throughout the next year, Tekashi allegedly continued to work with, and fund, the gang. He would also participate in — and often gleefully post on Instagram — robberies and shootings alongside the Nine Treys, eventually leading to his arrest and the litany of charges. In recent months, one charge for gun possession has been dropped, lowering the minimum sentence to 37 years, pending Judge Engelmayer’s decision on Wednesday.
Tekashi’s legal team declined to comment on the record prior to the sentencing. Along with his 51K letter, Tekashi also submitted a personal letter to Judge Engelmayer, pleading for leniency. “I had a feeling of relief when I was arrested by the government because I felt stuck, like the gang had control over my life and that I would never be able to escape their grip,” he wrote. “I was blessed with the gift of an opportunity that most people dream of but I squandered it by getting involved with the wrong people and misrepresenting myself when I should have been true to myself and my fans.”