Clarence Winn Jr.

Dayton rap artist sentenced in drug trafficking case

“It was stupid and I apologize,” said Winn, also known as CCSERVA. “I knew better. … This may seem crazy, but I needed this. I needed this.”

U.S. District Court Judge Walter Rice sentenced Winn, 36, to nine years in prison for trafficking more than 10 grams of acrylfentanyl from 2016 until March 2017, during which an informant made 10 controlled buys.

RELATED: Prosecutors want federal judge to consider Winn’s words for sentencing

Rice sustained a defense motion to take out reference to Winn’s Diamond Cut group as being a violent street gang. Defense attorney Jon Paul Rion has said Diamond Cut started out as a musical movement and was twisted by others into something else.

Rice said he wasn’t deciding whether Diamond Cut — who the judge said had 15 to 20 members sentenced in federal court on gun and drug charges — was such a gang, but that the government hadn’t proven that point.

“I love music more than I love myself. I’m an artist. The world is my canvas, and I paint what I see,” Winn said, later adding. “I’m a lot of things. I’m no saint. Furthermore, I’m not the leader of no gang.”

RELATED: Dayton rap artist ‘CCSERVA’ pleads guilty to distributing drugs

The lack of gang leader status should lead to less restrictive imprisonment, according to Rion and Rice.

Winn pleaded guilty in June to one of six gun- or drug-related counts in an indictment against multiple co-defendants and to a sentence of at least five years in prison. The non-binding advisory range that Rice adopted was for a sentence from eight years and one month to 10 years and one month.

Rice said Winn’s good work in the community — running Easter egg hunts, providing Christmas presents to needy families, etc. —showed Winn to be intelligent, with a “kind heart” and a “kind soul” that generated about 25 letters of support, including from those in the Shelby County Jail where Winn is housed.

RELATED: What we know about the ‘Diamond Cut’ group

The judge said those facts made the case even more frustrating.

“The fact remains, he’s a drug dealer,” Rice said. “And not just any kind of drug dealer, he’s a dealer in poison.”

Prosecutors had sought to use Winn’s lyrics and self-styled autobiography as a factor in sentencing, but Rose ruled that the material — true, false or some of each — wasn’t considered.

But Rice did say the lyrics, videos and stories exalting drug dealing, guns and denigrating women were the exact opposite of what is needed in neighborhoods where Winn is idolized. Winn said stories were fictionalized to attract an audience.

RELATED: Dayton rapper detained before trial on drugs, gun charges

“To say that book and (Winn’s) rap videos don’t glorify the drug trade is naive,” Rice said. “Totally naive.”

Rion said Winn “is a person who honestly cares about family, about community” but acknowledged that didn’t square with selling that community drugs. “He’s a mixed bag. I understand that.

“There is not a lot of infliction of punishment that is necessary to change his soul.”

RELATED:‘Diamond Cut’ member sentenced for ‘mule’ role in drug case

Assistant U.S. attorney Brent Tabacchi said Winn was a successful musician with talent and a God-given ability to earn money legitimately. Tabacchi said Winn’s crimes were not a one- or two-day thing, but five months.

“It was pure greed,” Tabacchi said. “There was no need for him to go out and deal drugs to make ends meet.”

Winn said he was frustrated by his race.

“I know we can do better, and that’s why I’m so disappointed in myself,” before answering a question from Rice about why he sold drugs if he was doing well with his music. “I made a mistake. It was about living up to the expectation.”

RELATED:Alleged gang member pleads guilty in drug trafficking case

RELATED: Substantial fentanyl operation busted

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