San Diego rapper and gang member Brandon Duncan a.k.a. "Tiny Doo," told media it is "crazy" that he's headed to trial in April.
Duncan, who posted bail last week after having it reduced to $50,000, said his experience has been "real bad," and he just wants to make music.
"It sucks 'cause this is freedom of speech," Duncan said. "Whatever happened to that? What happened to my constitutional rights?"
Duncan also said Friday that while he was in custody, his grandfather passed away and he was not only unable to console his grandmother, but when he got to go back home, his grandfather wasn't there like he always had been before.
He, along with nine other defendants, are accused of criminal conspiracy related to two dozen local shootings.
During a status hearing Friday, the San Diego District Attorney's office submitted an amendment to the court, which the defense claimed alters the wording of the charges, but the district attorney's office said it does not change them.
Further discussions surrounding the nature of the amendment and its effect on the case will have to be submitted as separate written motions, according to the defense attorney.
A group of 33 active gang members are a part of a high-profile case related to 24 shootings in recent years, including three murders in Southeast San Diego. Because of the number of defendants, the case was split up and assigned to two different judges.
Five of the defendants had the charges dropped at an earlier hearing, but trial was scheduled for the remaining defendants following a status conference Friday.
The confusion about the case still centers around why the charges were dismissed for some defendants but not others, and whether the judge can still dismiss charges for the remaining defendants.
"The judge clearly stated that he wanted to go back and reverse his rule, but he didn't have jurisdiction to do so," said defense attorney Brian Watkins. "We have a situation where - just like when we have a guilty defendant that gets out on a procedural technicality - we have the opposite happening here, where we have innocent defendants being held on procedural technicalities."
Watkins said they plan to address those technicalities "at a later date and time."
The ten defendants in court Friday are charged with conspiracy to commit premeditated attempted murder, but the defense said the wording changes - specifically the removal of the word "willfully" - make it unfairly easier for the prosecution to prove guilt.
Duncan, who believes his First Amendment rights are being violated, remains adamant he never committed a crime, saying "this is crazy."
"It's music," Duncan said Friday. "It's entertainment. That's it. It's telling a story. That's it."
The district attorney's office has argued from the beginning that the case is not about the First Amendment; it's about gang violence and public safety. Prosecutors claim while Duncan had no hand in the shootings themselves, they benefited from gang activity through things like album sales.
“The focus is holding violent individuals accountable for crimes that terrorized a neighborhood,” district attorney spokesperson Steve Walker said in an earlier release. “Criminal charges against these defendants were filed appropriately under this specific law, which was put in place by voters to stop deadly gang violence and hold active gang members accountable. It’s our hope that this week's rulings will lead to clarification on how we can use this statute to fight the scourge of criminal street gangs.”
Another status conference was scheduled for Feb. 27, and trial begins April 20.