Rap music moguls' trial goes to NY jury

By Christine Kearney

New York (Reuters) - Prosecutors accused rap moguls Irving and Christopher Lorenzo of laundering cash for one of New York's "biggest, baddest" drug lords, but defense lawyers countered they were victims of guilt by association.

The closing arguments were made on Wednesday in a Brooklyn federal courthouse where the brothers stand accused of laundering up to $1 million in cash they are accused of receiving in shopping bags and shoe boxes.

The Lorenzos had an array of rap stars sitting behind them in a show of support including Jay Z, Ashanti, Ja Rule, Fat Joe and Russell Simmons.

Irving and Christopher, 35 and 38 years old respectively, are CEO and president of the rap label formerly known as Murder Inc. They took the nicknames Irv and Chris Gotti after the notorious Gambino crime family.

Prosecutor Carolyn Pokorny said the case was not about the rap world but two men who "laundered money for one of the biggest, baddest, most dangerous drug lords in New York City," referring to convicted dealer Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff.

"Supreme's dirty money went to them. Their clean and legitimate money went back to him," Pokorny said.

Defense lawyer Gerald Shargel acknowledged the Lorenzos' relationship with McGriff, saying it included the legitimate financing of the straight-to-video movie "Crime Partners."

"There is nothing illegal about giving financial backing for a movie, ... knowing a criminal, socializing with a criminal, even doing business with a criminal," Shargel said.

"This attempt to prove guilt by association ... is absolutely pathetic," he said.

Irv Lorenzo's early fans when he started to spin records included Run from rap group Run DMC and LL Cool J. He met McGriff, 46, in the mid 1990s when the dealer was a local legend who had been hailed in rap lyrics by other artists.

McGriff once served eight years of a 12-year sentence for dealing crack in Queens, New York as leader of "The Supreme Team" street gang. Prosecutors say he built an even larger enterprise after his release, expanding to Maryland and North Carolina before returning to prison to serve a 37-month sentence for an incident at a Maryland gun range in 2003.

Prosecutors had hoped to show the Lorenzos owed favors to McGriff by trying to link McGriff to the hit on Murder Inc. rival Curtis Jackson, better known as 50 Cent, who was shot nine times in May 2000 but survived.

The judge barred the jury from hearing that evidence.

Source: Reuters