He was arrested in November 2018 on charges that included racketeering, illegal firearms possession, and aiding in an attempted murder. He faced up to life in prison and pleaded guilty in January.
Hernandez agreed to cooperate with authorities. In September, he testified against members of Nine Trey, his gang.
Because Hernandez cooperated, prosecutors asked that he be sentenced to less than the minimum 37 years he faced. Hernandez’s lawyer requested time served, citing letters from family and friends asking for leniency.
A judge gave him 24 months in prison, 13 of which were deemed time served.
The rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine was sentenced to two years in prison and five years of supervised release in a Manhattan federal court on Wednesday.
Paul Engelmayer, the judge overseeing the case, castigated Tekashi, whose real name is Daniel Hernandez, but praised his cooperation with prosecutors. Hernandez pleaded guilty to several crimes related to his involvement with the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods and testified against fellow gang members.
“Your cooperation was courageous,” Engelmayer said. “The danger to you is multiplied by your music career, which I understand you intend to continue. The fact that you are unusually recognizable does not help you.”
Both prosecutors and the attorney representing Hernandez had asked Engelmayer to give the rapper a reduced sentence. He faced up to life in prison for his crimes, with a minimum sentence of 37 years.
Engelmayer spoke to Hernandez — his long, rainbow-dyed hair faded to black and blond and pulled back in a ponytail — in front of a nearly full courtroom. Few friends or family members were in attendance, as the defense said Hernandez’s mother, brother, and girlfriend feared for their safety. At least one row was filled with a group of middle-aged men who appeared to be undercover cops. In another row, sat Hernandez’s biological father, who Hernandez hadn’t seen since he was 9 years old.
“I failed these people. They believed in Daniel Hernandez. I was too busy making the negative image in my 69 persona,” Hernandez said at his sentencing, wearing a blue jail uniform. “I know God has a bigger plan for me. I want to inspire the youth that it never too late to change.”
The 13 months Hernandez has already spent in jail will count toward his sentence, so he must spend an additional 11 months in prison. Engelmayer also imposed 300 hours of community service and a $35,000 fine.
Engelmayer told the court that he hoped one day Hernandez is remembered for “doing the right thing” by cooperating with law enforcement. He said some commentary of the case had “romanticized” Nine Trey and made a joke out of Hernandez’s testimony.
“I appreciated the memes, whether at your expense or mine. But I need to say, Nine Trey was violent, not to be glorified. Cooperation of criminal insiders is a necessary tool,” he said.
Hernandez gave ‘extremely useful’ testimony to prosecutors
Hernandez was arrested in November 2018 on charges including racketeering, illegal firearms possession, and aiding in an attempted murder. He pleaded guilty in January.
In the months that followed, Hernandez provided officials with information about the inner workings of Nine Trey — an East Coast offshoot of the Bloods — and testified in September against Anthony “Harv” Ellison and Aljermiah “Nuke” Mack, whom prosecutors have described as high-ranking members of the organization.
In his testimony, Hernandez named several famous people he believed to be part of the Nine Trey gang, including Jim Jones, his former manager Kifano “Shotti” Jordan, and the rapper Mel Matrix. He detailed his beefs with the rappers Casanova, Trippie Redd, and Chief Keef, as well as started another with Cardi B.
They said Hernandez had been “both incredibly significant and extremely useful,” and said that he “provided an insider’s view of Nine Trey and a first-hand account of many acts of violence” that they “otherwise did not have.”
Other members of the rap community had criticized Hernandez over his testimony, prosecutors said, questioning whether he would be safe in public or in jail.
“There is no question that the defendant’s life will never be the same because of his cooperation in this case,” prosecutors said in their memo.
At Hernandez’s sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Longyear told Engelmayer that Hernandez gave investigators insight into the structure and leadership inside the Nine Trey gang.
“Mr. Hernandez was truthful, he was forthcoming, he was an open book,” Longyear said, adding that there was a major risk factor in Hernandez testifying. “He will forever have to look over his shoulder. He will have to take extra precaution, certainly for the near future and for quite some time.”
Victims of Hernandez’s crimes asked that he remain in jail
One day before the sentencing, prosecutors filed two letters from people who were robbed by Hernandez and his cohorts in April 2018.
Skyy L. Daniels, a publicist, and her assistant, whose name was withheld in the letter, said they were robbed by Hernandez at gunpoint in midtown Manhattan, causing them longtime stress. Both asked that Hernandez remain in prison.
“As a result of this entire ordeal, I have suffered greatly from mental anguish and emotional distress,” Daniels wrote. “So traumatized by this aftermath, that over a year later, I have had a difficult time getting past the incident suffering from what we believe is post-traumatic stress disorder. To add insult to injury, he released the video of me escaping from the clutches of his thugs on social media and it went viral accumulating millions of views as the public laughed. I am a mother and grandmother first and it is so hard to describe what it feels like to survive that occurrence.”
Her assistant said he could not sleep alone anymore and had to move out of his New York apartment, which he learned was blocks from Hernandez’s.
“For a long time I practiced putting the terrible memories away in my mind,” the assistant said. “Thinking about it is still really painful. Sometimes I just go into staring spells when I am caught thinking about what happened and not paying any attention to my surroundings. Everyday of my life I live in constant fear that someone (his goons/supporters/constituents) will be sent to finish the job. It hurts me so much.”
A woman who was shot in the foot at a July 2018 shooting orchestrated by Hernandez spoke at the sentencing hearing, saying her life had been permanently changed.
The woman, identified only as LL, said July 16, 2018, was the “worst day” of her life and called herself a “victim of Daniel Hernandez’s actions.”
LL was shot in the foot in crossfire at a Brooklyn public housing area nicknamed “Smurf Village.” She was an innocent bystander in the shooting. Hernandez wasn’t present at the time of the shooting but is believed to have orchestrated it as a hit on a rival.
“I have scars on my back, I have scars on my knee, I have scars on my foot,” LL said, adding that she’s still in physical therapy more than a year later. “I want him to apologize and admit what he did. At the end of the day, he was the mastermind.”
In his statement to the judge, Hernandez apologized to LL and offered to pay all of her medical bills.
Hernandez personally asked the judge for a short sentence
Hernandez’s lawyer had asked for time served in the case. In his statement to Engelmayer in court, Hernandez, took responsibility for his actions, described his relationship to the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods gang, and told the court about this childhood in Brooklyn.
“To be honest, I can’t blame anyone but myself. I’m not a victim,” Hernandez said. “I put myself into this position since day one. Whatever my lawyer calls them — gang members or leeches — I allowed them in. It was my decision.”
He broke down in tears at one point, when he turned to apologize to LL for the July 2018 shooting, he saw his father sitting in the fourth row.
Hernandez didn’t know his father until he was 9 years old, Lazzaro, Hernandez’s lawyer, told the judge before the sentencing. Hernandez’s father moved in with his family, but Hernandez’s mother kicked him out once she realized he was doing heroin around the children, Lazzaro said.
Hernandez then became more close to his stepfather, who he viewed as a father figure. He was murdered when Hernandez was 14.
After taking a pause to compose himself, Hernandez apologized to his two daughters, the rest of his family, and his fans.
“I made a lot of bad choices, but that doesn’t make me a bad person … I was more worried about fame and success than my own and others’ well-being,” he said. “I was weak and easily influenced.”
He told the judge that he had always hoped to be an example for others, showing that a kid who grew up in Brooklyn, could become a world-famous musician.
Hernandez also mentioned the charity work he has taken part in, including spending time with sick children.
“When people see me, they don’t always see the arrogant person the news wants you to see,” he said. “They see me. I’m human, with organs, like everyone else in this room.”
Hernandez’s attorney, Lance Lazarro, applauded Hernandez for cooperating with law enforcement, describing it as “courageous.”
“People who call Mr. Hernandez a coward for testifying are the real cowards,” he said.
In court documents filed by his lawyers ahead of the sentencing, Hernandez’s mother, Natividad Perez-Hernandez; his brother, Oscar Hernandez; his girlfriend, Rachel “Jade” Wattley; and several other associates asked the judge for leniency.
In his own letter, Hernandez told the judge that he had disassociated from the gang, which came “with a price.”
“I’m truly sorry for the harm that I’ve caused,” Hernandez wrote. “If given a second chance, I will not let this Court down and I will dedicate a portion of my life to helping others not make the same mistakes that I’ve made.”
“I now know that I am remorseful for what happened because I was blessed with the gift of an opportunity that most people dream of but I squandered it by getting involved with the wrong people and misrepresenting myself when I should have been true to myself and my fans,” he wrote.
“I’m sorry to the victims who were affected by my actions, to my fans who look up to me and were misled, to my family who depends on me and to this courtroom for this mess that I contributed to,” he continued.