After a two-year investigation and a highly publicized, celebrity filled trial, Irving and Christopher Lorenzo, better known as Murder Inc.’s Gotti Brothers, have been acquitted on all charges of money laundering.
After two days of deliberation, a Brooklyn jury found the brothers not guilty of using drug money to start their hip-hop record label, Murder Inc., on Friday, December 2.
The government believed that Irving "Irv Gotti" Lorenzo and Christopher "Chris Gotti" Lorenzo started Murder Inc. with drug profits and were using their label to launder illegal proceeds for Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff, a convicted New York drug dealer. Their investigation led to the highly publicized 2003 raid of Murder Inc.’s Manhattan offices.
The prosecution gathered a mound of evidence against the bothers, including incriminating text messages between the Lorenzos and McGriff. There were also check receipts totaling $65,000 made out to McGriff’s company, Picture Perfect Films. Witnesses also testified to have seen or personally transported bags of drug cash from McGriff to the Murder Inc. Offices.
The Lorenzo’s’ defense team provided rationale for the prosecution’s claims. Defense attorneys claimed that both Irving and Christopher were compulsive gamblers, betting hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time. As a result, it was not uncommon for tens of thousands of dollars in cash to be lying around in the record label’s offices. The defense also proved that the Lorenzo’s’ involvement with McGriff’s film company was legal and had no connection to McGriff’s illicit drug trade.
McGriff currently faces the death penalty stemming from charges of murder and racketeering. His trial is scheduled for March 2006. McGriff is accused of two drug-related murders in Baltimore, Maryland, the revenge homicide of rapper Eric "E Money Bags" Smith, and multiple gun and drug charges.
The trial attracted a who’s who in the hip-hop community, garnering appearances and testimony from Ashanti, Ja Rule, Jay Z, Fat Joe, Russell Simmons, Damon Dash, Lyor Cohen, and Minister Benjamin Chavis of the Hip Hop Action Network, according to Allhiphop.com.
During testimony, one witness for the prosecution confirmed government suspicions that Robert "Sun" Lyons, a bodyguard for rapper Ja Rule, was the man responsible for the well-known May 2000 shooting of Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson. The Lorenzo’s defense team claimed that another man, Darryl "Hommo" Baum was responsible for the shooting, pointing to Jackson’s song lyrics and details in an investigative book, "Queens Reigns Supreme: Fat Cat, 50 Cent, and the Rise of the Hip Hop Hustler," written by journalist Ethan Brown.
The Lorenzo Brothers changed the name of Murder Inc. to simply The Inc. in 2003, claiming that the connotation of the company’s name was harmful to the hip-hop community. Since the brothers’ acquittal, members of the hip-hop community are pointing to this case as another instance of hip-hop profiling. They feel that the government and police automatically suspect hip-hop artists, producers, etc. of illegal activity.