JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — * The above video is from a previous article originally published Aug. 12, 2021
Attorneys for a Jacksonville rapper accused in two separate homicides are asking a Duval County Circuit Court judge to disqualify the State Attorney's Office alleging the government is "tampering with evidence" and "unjustly ... targeting well known musicians."
The "Motion to Disqualify State Attorney's Office Fourth Judicial Circuit" was filed Tuesday by Miami-based attorneys Christopher DeCoste and Tara Kawass on behalf of their client, Hakeem Robinson, aka, Ksoo.
Robinson, 23, is accused of, killing two people in separate gang-related shootings; Adrian Gainer, aka Bibby, in February 2019 and Charles McCormick, aka Lil Buck, in January 2020.
"Yes, murders are happening, people are committing them, but targeting well known musicians - like Mr. Robinson - to set an example and get greater media attention to create the illusion of order is unjust," a portion of the 56-page motion obtained by First Coast News states.
State Attorney Melissa Nelson released the following statement about the claims:
“This tactic appears to be par for the course for these lawyers. Assistant State Attorney Joel Cooper will continue to ethically represent the State of Florida as he has always done throughout his career. We will continue to try this case where it belongs — in a court of law.”
Robinson's music, which has garnered millions of views on YouTube and other streaming platforms, is notoriously known for naming and mocking rivals from other sections of Jacksonville killed in alleged gang-related crimes.
A portion of the motion addresses the disturbing act of rappers creating music about their dead rivals with the following statement:
"Drilling is the act of shooting and killing your rivals—ops. These cases and many others recently brought by the State Attorney’s Office for the Fourth Judicial Circuit target drill rappers, who artistically sing about a lifestyle they may or may not be living. The government, however, is not operating within the bounds of the law. There is little difference between shooting and killing your ops and tampering with evidence to convict your targets."
The motion alleges that Assistant State Attorney Joel Cooper Jr., lead prosecutor in Robinson's cases, is tampering with evidence when using testimony of convicted felons who may be looking to get reduced sentences by cooperating with the state.
Robinson's attorneys draw similarities between their client's cases and the case of Deontrae Thomas.
Thomas was sentenced to life in February 2020 for the May 2017 shooting death of 19-year-old Zion Brown.
The motion includes a recording of Cooper speaking to one of the state's witnesses in the hallway during a court recess during Thomas' trial.
"... Keshawn Valrick Callwood was one of the government’s listed witnesses," the motion states. "He too was being prosecuted by Mr. Cooper’s office and expected leniency in exchange for his cooperation against Mr. Thomas. Mr. Cooper and Mr. Callwood had a conversation outside of the courtroom during Mr. Thomas’ trial. Unbeknownst to Mr. Cooper their conversation was recorded:"
The motion contains the following transcript of Cooper's and Callwood's alleged conversation:
SPEAKER ONE: (Unintelligible) but you know how the courtroom is setup. You know I’ll be standing at the podium in front of you. You know where my tables at; you know the other table. And, the way the courtroom is setup you’ll have defense counsel at the other table and typically their client, alright. Alright?
SPEAKER TWO: So which side is he gonna be on?
SPEAKER ONE: When you’re sitting at the witness stand the way the courtroom is setup looking straight ahead will be at the podium. I’ll be standing at the podium. This is my table, alright, the other table up here is gonna be, ah, defense attorneys table. Okay?
SPEAKER TWO: Is there a restroom anywhere over here?
SPEAKER ONE: Yea, so, do you think you’ll be able to (unintelligible) and you’ll have to take that out of your ear when you go in there. Remember him, right?
SPEAKER TWO: Oh, yea that’s the (unintelligible) that’s the lawyer (unintelligible).
SPEAKER ONE: Alright, remember (several seconds of unintelligible whispering).
SPEAKER TWO: Yea.
SPEAKER ONE: And um, when you’re walking in (unintelligible) and we’ll see, alright, and so what I’ll ask you, what, if you have any issues when I get up and say, “who were you talking to” you say, “Deontrae Thomas” you’ll say, he’s sitting right over there if you recognize him. Okay?
SPEAKER TWO: Okay. Um.
SPEAKER ONE: Yea, if you come up here to this corner right here, see where all those people are in the corner?
SPEAKER TWO: Uh-huh.
SPEAKER ONE: Make a right right there there’s a men’s room right (unintelligible).
SPEAKER TWO: Okay.
SPEAKER TWO: Shit them crazy, I’m fittin’ to tell, I’m come and holla at you. [Exhibit A].
The motion continues, "Mr. Callwood was called to the stand soon after this recording. Once on the stand he asked the judge to excuse him from testifying. The court excused the jury and Mr. Callwood said he had this recording of Mr. Cooper. Mr. Callwood was moved to a waiting area while the parties discussed the issue with the court. Mr. Callwood was never put back on the stand. He was excused from the courthouse at the same time court adjourned for the day. Mr. Cooper called Mr. Callwood before Mr. Callwood got to his vehicle and was extremely upset. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Callwood received no leniency and instead was sentenced to ten years prison on technical violations of probation," the motion states.
"Cooperators get reduced sentences in exchange for helping the government bring cases and/or get convictions. This makes their testimony unquestionably the most unreliable of all forms of evidence, especially when it is not their first time through the system. Most documented criminals are not going to have an aversion to lying if it is the only way to remove their head from the guillotine," the motion states.
The state's key evidence against Robinson are his music lyrics and testimony from Dominique Jerrod Barner, also an accused killer in three different Jacksonville homicides.
"Mr. Cooper interviewed Mr. Barner concerning this case and it was knowingly recorded. Even still, a vast majority of Mr. Cooper’s questions lead heavily," the motion states. "Most of the interview was Mr. Cooper asking fact laden questions and Mr. Barner responding “yes, sir.
"Many will eagerly agree with the government’s narrative, whether true or not. As such, prosecutors must use extreme care when dealing with these witnesses," the motion states.
Robinson and Thomas don't only share Cooper as the prosecutor of their alleged murders. Both men also have connections to Jacksonville's biggest rap star - Yungeen Ace.
Yungeen Ace, whose real name is Kenyata Bullard, pleaded no contest in an Orange Park robbery where he and Thomas conspired to rob someone who was reportedly selling marijuana, according to a June 2018 article in The Florida Times-Union. Shots were fired into that home nearly missing a couple and a 1-year-old child.
Robinson has made several song's with Yungeen Ace and Yungeen Ace continues to mention Robinson in his songs, including this line he dropped in the blockbuster song "Who I Smoke," one of the most popular rap songs in 2021:
"My killer make your face go, that's one thing about Ksoo ..."
"Both Mr. Thomas and Mr. Robinson are closely acquainted with Kenyata Bullard, widely known as Yungeen Ace," the motion states. "Mr. Bullard is a globally recognized musician, has songs certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, recently released a song with music icon Rick Ross, and has over a billion streams in 2021 to name some of his recent accomplishments. Despite a promising future he continues to be unjustly targeted by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office for the Fourth Judicial Circuit."
The motion is asking the judge to allow an office independent from the State Attorney's Office to evaluate Barner's testimony.