Chauncey Hawkins, the Harlem-based former Bad Boy Records rapper—aka Loon—was released from Florida’s FCI Coleman Low on June 29 after serving nearly nine years on a drug conspiracy charge.
Although a series of letters and petitions signed by celebrities and musicians had circulated over these past nine years, the real force behind Loon’s release came from a former prisoner himself, Weldon Angelos, who had served 13 years of a 55-year sentence for selling less than an ounce of weed.
Angelos, who set up the Weldon Project after his own release in 2016, had collected letters of support for Loon signed by entertainers such as Grammy Award-winning singer Faith Evans, former NBA champion Kevin Garnett, Roc Nation rapper Freeway, rapper Baby Bash, and others in the music and entertainment industries that eventually included Snoop Dogg and Kim Kardashian West.
But the breakthrough came when Angelos personally wrote and filed Loon’s 34-page court motion for compassionate release under the First Step Act after the COVID-19 outbreak in the prison system.
US District Judge Terrence Boyle apparently agreed that the coronavirus was an “extraordinary and compelling” reason to release a man who was not a danger to society. Judge Boyle converted Loon’s sentence to time served.
From Inmate To Criminal Justice Reform Advocate
Angelos, an up-and-coming hip-hop artist and music producer, was working with Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur’s recording group when he got busted in 2002.
Now, as a criminal justice reform advocate, Angelos continually rallies support from a wide range of politicians, activists, entertainment figures and legal experts to help prisoners left behind.
“A lot of people fall off when you go to prison and I saw that happen to me, so I didn’t want that to happen to him [Loon] so I went to work for a year and a half and did everything I could to get him back to his family as soon as possible,” Angelos told High Times.
He’s especially psyched about Loon’s release.
“Loon is my music peer and my brother. He never should have received a 14-year sentence for a minor role in a non-violent drug offense. This is just another example of a wasteful and destructive criminal justice system.”
Angelos is working through the First Step Act, which passed in December 2018. The program has expanded compassionate release eligibility for prisoners as well as the right to appeal denials of their requests for compassionate release to a court, as opposed to the Federal Bureau of Prisons
In June 2019 Angelos wrote and submitted another celebrity-endorsed letter to President Trump strongly urging him “to grant [Loon] a presidential commutation of sentence without delay,” pointing out that “Loon’s sentence for merely making an introduction is longer than the sentences given to child rapists.”
Angelos explained that while Loon was not released as part of presidential clemency, although he was approved for it last February, it was the compassionate release motion that moved the process up to July 29, 2020. Loon had 13 months left to serve.
Loon was a member of Diddy’s Bad Boy camp. He was best known for his hit singles with P. Diddy entitled “I Need A Girl” featuring Usher and “I Need A Girl Part 2” featuring Ginuwine.
While incarcerated, Loon converted to Islam and changed his name to Amir Junaid Muhadith.
Angelos shared a statement from a very appreciative Loon:
“It is only through the overwhelming push by extraordinary group of individuals such as Weldon Angelos, Jason Flom, Faith Evans, Kevin Garnett, Jessica Jackson Sloan at #cut50 and so many others who are not only advocated on my behalf but seek to support broader change for a broken and unjust system. It is through my own desire for change and the support of so many that I am returning back to society as an asset to my community, a loving husband and father, and an advocate in our battle for real criminal justice reform.”
Welcome home, Loon.