Kanye West finally went home with a trophy from the BET Awards on Saturday, but the event was overshadowed by the fact that nine-time nominee T.I. was arrested on weapons charges shortly before the event. The rapper, whose real name is Clifford Harris, was arrested in Atlanta on Saturday afternoon on charges of buying illegal machine guns just before he was scheduled to perform at the awards show. He was taken into custody in the parking lot of an Atlanta shopping center as he accepted delivery of three machine guns and two silencers from a bodyguard. He is due in court Monday afternoon at 3 p.m., according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He faces federal charges and a potentially long prison sentence, as a convicted felon (which T.I. is) is not allowed to own firearms.
"The last place machine guns should be is in the hands of a convicted felon, who cannot legally possess any kind of firearm," said David E. Nahmias, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, in a statement. "This convicted felon allegedly was trying to add several machine guns to an already large and entirely illegal arsenal of guns. Thanks to the good and quick work of ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms], he is now in custody, and his firearms have been seized."
"We'll go in [Monday], request bail on his behalf and vigorously defend him," T.I.'s attorney, Dwight Thomas, told the Journal-Constitution. "I can tell you he's in good spirits. He's confident the legal system will work in his favor."
The arrest was the result of an undercover operation by ATF agents that started on October 2, when they learned that a bodyguard for T.I. was seeking to buy machine guns without registering them. The bodyguard was arrested on Wednesday after purchasing three machine guns, two silencers and a pistol, and claimed he was buying the guns for T.I. Then, as part of the investigation, he arranged to deliver the guns to the Rapper on Saturday. Three other firearms were then found in the vehicle T.I. was driving and six more were found at his home, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, at the BET Awards, show host and comedian Katt Williams filled in for T.I. on his performance of "You Know What It Is" with Wyclef and DJ Drama. Many other artists showed support for the Rapper, and after performing T.I.'s "Hurt," Busta Rhymes and Alpha Mega raised their fists and yelled "Free T.I.!" Common, who was the co-winner for CD Of The Year with T.I., held up his trophy and said, "I salute my guy T.I., who also won, wherever he is."
BET President for Entertainment Reginald Hudlin said in a statement, "What strikes me about T.I. is the goodness of his spirit. I think T.I. is a great person and a gigantic artist and he has our utmost support."
Kanye West won the award for Best Hip-Hop Video for “Stronger,” and though he often complains about not winning awards, he took the podium and said that UGK’s “International Players Anthem” actually should have earned this one. Kanye then invited UGK and OutKast’s Big Boi, who features on the track, to come onstage, which they did. The duo told West that he deserves the award, and he finally accepted it with their blessing.