Daniel Hernandez, better known as the rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine, was sentenced to two years in prison plus five years of supervised probation in a gripping hearing in Manhattan on Wednesday, featuring a surprise interruption from a man claiming to be the rapper’s biological father. The 24-month sentence includes the 13 months he had already spent in federal prison, meaning he will likely be released next year. Hernandez was facing 37 years to life on federal racketeering charges, and the reduced sentence came as a result of his cooperation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in a case against the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods.
While Hernandez has spent the past 13 months since his arrest in prison, Judge Paul A. Engelmayer ruled that the charges against him were too severe for time served to be considered adequate punishment. In laying out the sentence, Judge Engelmayer recounted the various threats Hernandez had made against other rappers. He also dismissed Hernandez’s claims that he was exploited by the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods, saying instead that the rapper and gang benefited equally from the relationship.
The sentencing hearing featured testimony from one of Hernandez’s alleged victims, referred to only as “LL.” The woman claimed that, because of Hernandez, she caught a stray bullet in her foot, and demanded an apology from the rapper.
Hernandez, when asked to give his own statement, rose to address the court and began to cry. In a halting voice, he explained his decision to defect from the Nine Trey gang, stating that they had stolen from him, and that his former associate Kifano “Shotti” Jordan had slept with the mother of his child. “I’m not a victim,” he said, referring to his time with the gang. “I put myself in that position from day one. If they’re leeches, I allowed them in.”
Then, he turned to face “LL,” the gunshot victim from an attack he had orchestrated. “I’m sorry for what happened,” he said through tears, then offered to pay her medical bills. “My life is so crazy,” he continued, before trailing off.
After regaining his composure, Hernandez read from a prepared statement to the court. He talked about his work with underprivileged children and communities, and of a meeting arranged by the Make-a-Wish foundation he’d had with a 5-year-old boy dying of cancer. “I failed these kids,” he said. “I failed my own beautiful daughters.”
Hernandez then discussed his own career and disorienting rise to fame. “The man who changed my life, his name is Elliot Grainge,” Hernandez said, referring to the 10K Projects label head — and the son of Universal Music Group CEO Lucian Grainge — who signed Hernadez to his first recording contract. From prison, Tekashi 6ix9ine recently negotiated a new record deal with Grainge for two albums, one in English and the other in Spanish. “He told me, ‘A smart person learns from his mistakes. A genius learns from others’,'” Hernandez said of Grainge. “Please allow others to learn from my mistakes.”
As soon as he’d finished, a man who strongly resembled Daniel Hernandez unexpectedly rose from the galley and asked to address the court, claiming to be Hernandez’s biological father. Judge Engelmayer denied the request, telling the man he had “squandered that opportunity many years ago.” Hernandez did not turn back to look at the man claiming to be his father during the exchange, but previously had stated, in an apparent non sequitur during his apology, that he hadn’t seen his biological father since the third grade.
Later, the older man gave his name as Daniel Hernandez as well, and gave his address as a homeless shelter in Queens.
Hernandez the younger was a key witness for the prosecution in the trials for Anthony Ellison and Aljermiah Mack — the convicted “street leaders” of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods. His testimony earned him a 51K letter, in which prosecutors recommended his sentence be reduced. Hernandez also sent his own letter to Judge Engelmayer, expressing remorse for his actions and for his affiliations with the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods.
As Tekashi 6ix9ine, Hernandez rose to prominence blindingly fast. He made a name for himself as a flashy, tattooed provocateur when SoundCloud Rap was at its height. It was once he began garnering attention for his music that he sought an affiliation with the Nine Treys, partially to lend his online persona more gravitas. Things got out of hand from there, in Hernandez’ telling, and his affiliation with the gang led to stolen money, a kidnapping, and, eventually, the arrest and federal charges.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Judge Engelmayer gave a comprehensive explanation for the two-year sentencing. Engelmayer forcefully rejected the defense’s portrayal of Hernandez as a victim of exploitation. While he conceded that Hernandez’ cooperation as a witness was “extraordinary,” he also suggested that Hernandez had used the Nine Trey gang as his “personal hit squad,” and gave a comprehensive recounting of the violence the gang had caused. “Until you joined Nine Trey, the gang did not have an interest in settling scores with rap artists,” Engelmayer said to Hernandez.
He then referenced Hernandez’ 2015 sex-tape case, in which Hernandez similarly claimed to be influenced by older acquaintances. “That excuse may work once. It doesn’t work twice.”
“Your choice to join Nine Trey was completely and utterly unnecessary,” Engelmayer said.