Fayette’s rap star resident ‘Rick Ross’ keeping justice center busy

Fayette’s rap star resident ‘Rick Ross’ keeping justice center busy

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William Leonard Roberts, II, known as rap star “Rick Ross,” (left) and Nadrian Lateef James (right) were arrested for an alleged June 7, 2015 that badly injured two groundskeepers.

When William Leonard Roberts, II moved to a luxury home in northern Fayette County about seven years ago, he did so quietly, at least from the standpoint of not gaining much local attention. That’s partly because a majority of the grown-ups in Fayette County back then wouldn’t have heard of Roberts, a rap star also known as “Rick Ross,” or his work.

Nowadays, Roberts is not only expanding his brand internationally, but he is making a name for himself in the Fayette County justice system as well, but not in a good way. In the coming months, he is expected to appear before judges in two criminal cases and one civil case, the latter being related to one of the criminal cases.

It was widely reported in June 2015 that Roberts had on the 10th of that month been pulled over by a Fayette County Sheriff’s Office deputy for a window tint violation, which resulted in the arrest of Roberts and a female friend on misdemeanor drug charges. They were both released on bond later that night.

Roberts himself did much of the reporting of that incident, bragging on social media about the arrest, which drew criticism from some that he was trying to gain street credibility in an industry that often glorifies drug use and other criminal behavior.

It would be weeks later on July 1 that Roberts would be arrested again, this time on Aggravated Assault, Aggravated Battery, and Kidnapping charges, which stemmed from an alleged June 7, 2015 incident (three days before the drug arrest) in which Roberts and employee Nadrian Lateef James are accused of brutally attacking two groundskeepers who had been reportedly staying overnight at a guest house on the old Evander Holyfield estate, which Roberts now owns.

While the misdemeanor drug and window tint violation charges have put Roberts on the books in Fayette County State Court under Judge Jason Thompson, the subsequent capital charges are being handled in Griffin Judicial Circuilt Superior Court and in Judge Tommy Hankinson’s courtroom.

Roberts was released from jail July 6 on a split bond amounting to $2 million. Judge Hankinson placed Roberts on house arrest, fitted with an ankle monitor and ordered him to stay home except when visiting his attorney’s office in Atlanta. Roberts was also ordered to have no communication with the alleged victims.

Roberts has teams of attorneys defending him in both cases, and in both cases Roberts claims to not be guilty. His attorney in the state court case filed a motion in April to suppress what he called “illegally seized evidence,” namely “five suspected marijuana cigarettes and a handgun,” from being mentioned in the upcoming trial.

In the superior court case, Roberts and James were both indicted Feb. 24 on two Kidnapping charges, one Aggravated Battery charge, three Aggravated Assault charges, and three Possession of Firearm During Commission of a Felony charges. They both maintain their innocence, while prosecutors in the case say they feel good about their chances of winning the case.

On Aug. 25, well-known, Atlanta-based attorney Lin Wood filed civil charges against Roberts in Fayette County State Court on behalf of his clients Jonathan Zamudio and Leonardo Ceceras, the groundskeepers who were allegedly attacked by Roberts and James. Wood gained international fame in 1996 and 1997 when he took on Richard Jewell, the security guard falsely accused with detonating a bomb at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, as a client. Wood later represented John and Patsy Ramsey, the parents of JonBenet Ramsey.

Wood claims in his lawsuit against Roberts that his clients were staying in a guest house on the old Holyfield estate with Roberts’ permission and that Roberts and James went there to beat Zamudio and Ceceras so badly that Zamudio had a broken jaw and couldn’t eat, and Ceceras’ head was split open.

In his countersuit, Roberts’ attorneys claim that Zamudio and Ceceras are simply carrying out “a money grab” and refute pretty much every substantial point in their lawsuit. However, Roberts’ countersuit does establish that some sort of conflict arose from Zamudio and Ceceras being found living in the guest house on a weekend when Roberts’ 13-year-old daughter was meant to be on the estate swimming in the pool with friends and family members. The countersuit claims that Roberts discovered drug paraphernalia and nine mattresses on the floor of the guest house, which is said to have been “uninhabitable,” partly because the air conditioning system didn’t work.

Zamudio and Ceceras claim they had family members staying in the guest house overnight to celebrate a birthday, and it was the next morning when Roberts and James assaulted them while their family, including children, witnessed the whole thing.

In October, Roberts’ attorneys appealed to Judge Hankinson to take Roberts off house arrest. They noted that the alleged victims live in Moscogee County and Florida, not in Fayette County, and they said their client would gladly avoid contact with them. The judge agreed, instead ordering Roberts to say away from Moscogee County and to file travel itineraries with the court and with the district attorney’s office if he plans to leave the state. The ankle monitor was to remain on Roberts’ leg, and Roberts’ passport was to remain in custody of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office.

On February 18, Roberts personally appeared in Judge Hankinson’s courtroom asking to have his passport back so he could travel internationally on business. His itinerary included Paris, France; London and Birmingham, England; Albania; Dubai; Almere, Holland; Marrakech, Morocco; Istanbul, Turkey; and the tiny island of St. Maarten off the coast of Puerto Rico. Roberts’ trip would take place April 1-22.

Judge Hankinson approved the request. He did not, however, approve the notion that Roberts would simply be accompanied by bodyguards. Roberts would have to be accompanied as well by his attorney Adama McKinnon, who would be personally responsible for keeping up with Roberts and his passport.

Assistant District Attorney Michelle McCutchen on behalf of the state opposed the request, asking Judge Hankinson for a denial based on the nature of Roberts capital charges.

According to the district attorney’s office, Roberts and his attorney apparently complied with the terms of Judge Hankinson’s bond modification order, as Roberts and his passport returned after the travel dates.

More recently, Roberts was again allowed to travel, this time to Cannes, France to take part in Festival de Cannes on May 15, and to the Republic of Congo in Africa July 2. McCutchen again voiced the state’s opposition to the travel request.

In between the international trips, Roberts on April 15 was a guest of President Barack Obama at the White House, where the rapper joined other industry celebs in a “Brother’s Keeper” youth initiative meeting, which media outlet TMZ said is an initiative geared “ironically to keep men of color out of trouble.” Other rappers reported to have taken part in the meeting include Nicki Minaj, Busta Rhymes, J. Cole, Wale, and DJ Khaled.

The meeting became an international joke after Roberts’ ankle monitor alarm reportedly went off during the meeting.

Back at the Fayette County Justice Center, Roberts’ three teams of attorneys have been filing dozens of legal motions in their cases over the past several months, and this past Monday, May 16, his civil defense attorneys responded to a motion by the district attorney’s office to quash a subpoena filed by the civil defense attorneys on April 13. That subpoena called for the district attorney’s office to release all of their evidence in the superior court criminal case to the civil defense attorneys for use in their state court civil case.

The district attorney’s office acknowledges they have filed a motion with Judge Thompson to quash the subpoena. The next motions hearing on the state court civil case is scheduled for June 8. The next motions hearing on the superior court criminal case is July 13.

Danny Harrison

Danny Harrison, a 1992 Fayette High School graduate, began his journalism career with Fayette County News in 1995. After taking several leaves of absence to pursue journalism and Christian ministry opportunities, including a few out of state and overseas, he returned full-time to Fayette County News in August 2014. Harrison earned a bachelor's degree in pastoral ministry in 2009 while serving as a missionary journalist in England and Western Europe.