Trump appeared on stage at his Bronx rally with two rappers charged in a felony gang case

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump, at his rally this week in the Bronx, invited two rappers on stage who have been charged in a sweeping gang case, with one of them facing attempted murder charges.

Michael Williams, better known as Sheff G, is a 25-year-old rapper whose songs and videos have millions of YouTube views and Spotify streams. He’s also a central figure in the gang case unveiled by Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez over a year ago, while he was serving a separate attempted weapons possession sentence.

Tegan Chambers, 24, who raps as Sleepy Hallow, has close to 11 million monthly listeners on Spotify. He faces conspiracy charges in the gang case. Both he and Sheff G have pleaded not guilty.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s appearance with suspected gang members comes as Trump is on trial himself in his New York hush money case and as he recurringly slams New York and other Democrat-run cities as crime-ridden. Trump has railed against the Manhattan district attorney who is prosecuting him for “letting violent crime run rampant all over our city.”

Challenging the reelection of President Joe Biden, Trump is trying to make inroads with Black Americans, who are traditionally supportive of the Democratic Party. AP VoteCast found Trump won just 8% of Black voters nationwide in 2020 versus 91% who voted for Biden.

He has claimed that his criminal indictments have boosted his support among Black voters, comparing his legal challenges to anti-Black prejudice in the U.S. legal system.

At a rally on the Jersey Shore earlier this month, Trump was joined on stage by NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who pleaded guilty in New York in 2011 to misdemeanor criminal charges of sexual misconduct and is a registered sex offender. Taylor said he had always been a Democrat until he met Trump.

U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres, a Democrat who represents the Bronx in Congress, said it is an offensive strategy for Trump to associate with people who are accused of violent crimes in order to appeal to Black voters.

“The conflation of communities of color with criminality is a racist trope that Donald Trump repeats,” said Torres, who is Black.

Images captured on Thursday show Sheff G walking into the park where the rally took place with cameras following him as teenage boys seem visibly excited at spotting the rapper. One of them said, “Oh my God. It’s Sheff G.”

Toward the end of his speech on Thursday, Trump asked his supporters, “Does everybody know Sheff G? Where is Sheff G?” before also introducing Sleepy Hallow.

“President Trump, my man,” Sheff G was heard saying before Trump gestured to him to approach the microphone.

“One thing I want to say: They are always going to whisper your accomplishments and shout your failures. Trump is going to shout the wins for all of us,” Sheff G told the crowd before Sleepy Hallow moved to the microphone to utter Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again.”

A spokesman for Trump’s campaign was asked about whether the campaign knew about the charges and whether it was the former president who sought the rappers’ support or the other way around.

“As Sheff G said: ‘They always whisper your accomplishments and shout your failures.’” campaign spokesman Steven Cheung responded in an email.

A spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service, which provides protection for Trump and secures his rallies, did not respond to a request for comment about Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow’s appearance on stage.

Trump called other speakers to the stage Thursday, including Republican Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida and the Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr., a former Democratic city council member in New York and state senator.

Both Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow are due back in court next month. Sheff G’s attorney, Arthur Aidala, said Friday that “intense litigation” was ongoing and “we’re cautiously optimistic that Mr. Williams will be exonerated.” A message seeking comment on the case was left with Sleepy Hallow’s attorney.

After being paroled in his weapons case in June 2023, Sheff G was held on the new charges until last month, when a judge set bail at $1.5 million cash. Sleepy Hallow was released on $200,000 bail in May 2023.

Prosecutors say Sheff G’s money fueled and rewarded multiple shootings as members of the 8 Trey Crips and affiliated 9 Ways gangs affiliates battled foes. He treated Sleepy Hallow and others to a steak dinner to celebrate an October 2020 shooting that killed a purported member of a rival gang and injured five others, prosecutors say.

“It is how, in part, Sheff G and Tegan Chambers — Sleepy Hallow — assert influence, right? Because they take people out, and they’re able to spend money, and they’re able to encourage others to do some of the gang violence that’s just critically important to them and their status in the community,” Gonzalez said at a May 2023 news conference with New York Mayor Eric Adams. Both are Democrats.

Prosecutors have said they have surveillance video, text messages, social media posts, cell phone data and more to back up the allegations. While Gonzalez has noted that the rappers’ songs refer to gang retaliation and some of their rivals, he has said the lyrics weren’t used as evidence.

Prosecutors also say Sheff G chauffeured three co-defendants to and from an April 2021 shooting that targeted a gang rival but instead hit two bystanders.

The DA’s office declined to comment Friday on the case.


Gomez Licon reported from Miami.

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