Platinum selling rap artist Fetty Wap (real name Willie Junior Maxwell II) was arrested and arraigned on October 29 pursuant to a federal indictment charging him and five other men with Conspiracy to Distribute Narcotics (the other five men were also charged with Use of Firearms in Connection with a Drug Crime). The charges are incredibly serious and Fetty Wap faces very significant jail time.
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the rapper and five other men trafficked in significant quantities of heroin, cocaine, and the especially-dangerous drug, fentanyl. The defendants (including Anthony Leonardi, Robert Leonardi, Brian Sullivan, Anthony Syntje, and Kavaughn Wiggins) have all been arrested and detained pending trial. Prosecutors claim to have recovered at least 16 kilograms of cocaine, 2 kilograms of heroin, and fentanyl, though it is certain that they will allege that the group is responsible for far more than that. Indeed, the press release describes the amount of drugs trafficked by the crew as “massive”.
Fetty Wap is unlikely to be released on bail pending trial, though it may be possible given his likely financial resources. However, in federal narcotics cases of this size and scale, the presumption for judges is that a defendant should be detained pending trial. Fetty Wap would have to convincingly demonstrate that he does not pose a risk to the public, and that he would not flee if released on bond. Given his resources (and possible ability to live abroad), the amount of prison time that he is potentially facing, the fact that his codefendants are indicted for using firearms, and the fact that he allegedly trafficked in fentanyl, which is notorious for causing fatal overdoses, it seems unlikely that he will be bailed out pending trial.
The maximum penalty for these charges (21 U.S.C. 841) is, in this case, life. The minimum statutory penalty is ten years in prison. In some cases, defendants facing ten year mandatory minimum sentences under 21 USC 841 are able to negotiate five year mandatory minimum sentences, or even plea agreements without mandatory minimums. However, given the amount of narcotics seized in this case, Fetty Wap is probably going to receive no better than a ten year mandatory minimum offer from the prosecutors, which he will either have to accept or try his luck with a jury.
The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines generally enable more precise estimates for how much time defendants are really facing, however. It is difficult to predict at this stage, though, as there are some unknown variables in Fetty Wap’s case. We do not know, for example, whether there are any overdoses potentially attributable to the defendants’ conduct. We also do not know whether Fetty Wap played a supervisory role in the conspiracy to traffic narcotics. Those factors can significantly increase the penalties for drug defendants. Pleading guilty, on the other hand, usually earns significant reductions in the sentencing range for defendants (as opposed to being convicted at trial).
Fetty Wap is of course presumed innocent. As of yet, we have no idea what evidence law enforcement has against him. But odds are that his outlook is very bleak. Federal indictments in cases like this tend to involve numerous controlled undercover purchases, wiretaps, surveillance, and confidential informants working with the government. Put another way, the evidence is typically overwhelming. It is thus no surprise that over 95% of federal criminal defendants plead guilty. So, Fetty Wap is unfortunately probably looking at a huge sentence that will end his music career and see him emerge from prison as an old man. It seems inexplicable that a talented artist with a lucrative career would risk everything to make illegal money in the drug trade. His lawyers will probably be seeking to get him the best plea bargain possible, and then beg a sentencing judge for leniency. That is oftentimes the best that defense attorneys can really do in these sorts of cases. But top notch advocacy for a client is truly invaluable and can make a huge difference in the outcome.
Matthew Galluzzo is a former Manhattan prosecutor who regularly represents criminal defendants charged with major narcotics crimes in federal and state courts throughout New York. He has helped many defendants escape prosecution, earn dismissals of criminal charges, and negotiate favorable plea bargain outcomes. If you or a loved one have been arrested and charged with a serious drug felony, you should contact Matthew Galluzzo to discuss your options.