A jury of six women took less than two hours to find a rapper guilty on Wednesday of kicking a woman during a performance at a Lakeland, Fl club in 2015.
County Judge Sharon Franklin sentenced Kevin Gates to 180 days in jail, three times more than what prosecutors requested for the misdemeanor battery conviction.
The sentence came after Gates’ lawyer, Jose Baez of Orlando, requested that Franklin refrain from sentencing Gates to any jail time and instead “fashion a sentence.”
“Mr. Gates has been involved in the Make a Wish Foundation,” Baez said. “That would assist the community much more than a 60-day jail sentence.”
Franklin asked whether Gates, whose real name is Kevin Jerome Gilyard, had any prior convictions before she sentenced the multiplatinum recording artist to jail time. Prosecutors said he was once convicted of possession of hydrocodone and marijuana.
Gates, wearing a kufi, a brimless hat worn by Muslims, and a black bowtie, thanked Baez as a Polk County sheriff’s deputy escorted him out of the courtroom. His jail sentence was expected to begin today.
After the sentence, Baez declined comment, saying that his client did not give him permission to speak to the press.
Gates, 30, was charged in August 2015 with battery after Lakeland police said he kicked 18-year-old Miranda Dixon on Aug. 30, 2015, at Rumors Niteclub, located off Memorial Boulevard in Lakeland, while he was performing in front of a packed crowd.
Gates told jurors that he was attempting to protect himself when he kicked into the crowd after being touched twice by Dixon, who is now 19. Because of the lights on stage, Gates said he didn’t know whether he was kicking a man or woman.
“I didn’t want to get pulled off stage,” Gates said. “I just kicked at the hands that were grabbing me.”
But jurors sided with Dixon, who testified that she only wanted to touch the rap star.
“He looked at me after the first time I touched him and that got us excited,” Dixon said on the stand. After Dixon touched him a second time, she said Gates lifted his leg and kicked her. “It hurt while I was breathing,” Dixon said. “I was short of breath.” Dixon reported the incident to police the following day.
Assistant State Attorney Hope Pattey said Gates could have done numerous other things besides “hauling back” and kicking Dixon, such as ask security to step in or speak into his microphone to tell Dixon and others to stop.
But Baez said in closing arguments that Dixon has a financial motive in the case, saying that she had a civil lawyer. “She wants to sue him,” Baez said. Baez said Dixon lied when she told jurors about the amount of alcohol she drank at the show.
In addition, he said Dixon never should have touched Gates. “She was committing a battery herself,” Baez said. “You poke the bear and then you don’t like it when the bear strikes you.”
The courtroom, which was packed with television cameras, was tense at times during cross examinations.
Baez said to Dixon, “you just finished lying to jurors,” at the beginning of his cross examination of her.
Pattey told Gates he could have kicked an innocent person if he didn’t know who he was kicking.
“That’s your sincere love of fans,” she questioned. “You want this jury to believe you didn’t see her?”
Pattey said Gates may need to find a new job if he feels threatened by the touch of a fan.
“He assumes some risk as a celebrity when he goes into a venue and there are hundreds of people crowded around him,” Pattey said in closing arguments.