Rap Album Could Land San Diego Musician in Prison for Life

Friday, November 21, 2014
Brandon Duncan's CD

The San Diego County District Attorney’s office charged rapper Tiny Doo (real name Brandon Duncan) with attempted murder this week for his “participation” in an alleged gang conspiracy linked to nine shootings.

That participation consists of recording music with nasty lyrics for a CD featuring a gun and bullets on the cover, and posing on social media websites with friends also implicated in the crime spree. Duncan, like them, is a gang member, according to San Diego police.

He is being charged under provisions of Proposition 21, passed by voters in 2000. The law allows the authorities to prosecute gang members who profit from crimes of other gang members, even if they aren’t directly involved. Duncan’s record sales were said to get a boost from the gang’s activities.

Duncan and 14 other suspects were hauled into court last week for the 2013 shootings. He grew up with a number of them and reportedly has the gang moniker of “TD.” The Los Angeles Times said he was arrested in 2008 and charged with pimping and pandering. Charges were eventually dropped.

Prop. 21 significantly expanded the definition of what constitutes criminal behavior, increased the sentences for gang-related crimes and prescribed jail time for relatively minor offenses if they were gang-related. The law also allowed prosecutors to charge a person under gang statutes in some cases even if they are not in a gang or spend much time with its members.   

Deputy District Attorney Anthony Campagna did not attempt to tie Duncan directly to any of the crimes in court, according to ABC 10 News in San Diego. Instead, he told the judge, “We're not just talking about a CD of anything, of love songs. We're talking about a CD (cover) . . . there is a revolver with bullets.”

Duncan’s attorney, Brian Watkins, was incredulous. “He has no criminal record. Nothing in his lyrics say go out and commit a crime,” he told ABC. “Nothing in his lyrics references these shootings, yet they are holding him liable for conspiracy. There are huge constitutional issues.”   

The American Civil Liberties Union challenged Proposition 21 in 2001, arguing that it violated the state constitution by addressing more than one subject in a single initiative. The League of Women Voters also challenged the law in a separate lawsuit. The law survived both challenges, which were focused on the law’s much harsher treatment of juveniles rather than the constitutional rights of gang members and their associates.

Duncan was held on $1 bail and faces a 25-years-to-life sentence. Trial is set for December 4.    

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Rapper Tiny Doo Will Go to Trial, Judge Decides (by Michael Chen, ABC 10 News)

Calif. Prosecutors Try Using Obscure Law to Send Musician to Prison for Life over Rap Album (by David Edwards, The Raw Story)

Rapper Tiny Doo Faces Prison Time for Crimes Committed by Other Gang Members (by Jessica Chasmar, Washington Times)

Rapper Tiny Doo Charged; His Album 'Promoted' Shootings, D.A. Says (by Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times)

Will Proposition 21, “The Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime Prevention Act,” Decrease Juvenile Crime in California? (California Budget Project) (pdf)

Proposition 21 (California Secretary of State’s Office)

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