Rapper Ricky “Slick Rick” Walters said today he still cannot believe he was freed from jail more than 17 months after US officials moved to deport the British-born star and locked him up.
Walters boarded a plane at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, bound for New York and home to see his wife and two children. He told reporters his family was happy the ordeal was over.
“I still can’t believe it to some degree,” said Walters. ”I’m just thankful to God.
Walters, 38, was cleared for release a week ago by US District Judge Kimba Wood, who ruled that the Board of Immigration Appeals should never have reversed its earlier decision that Walters could stay in the United States despite a criminal conviction.
The rapper was detained in June 2002 as he returned to Florida after performing on a cruise ship for a week. His detainment came amid the immigration crackdown following the September 11 attacks.
“We’re happy that I’m able to stay in the country and put this behind us, finally, hopefully and go on with my life and resume my rap career,” said Walters.
The Hip-Hop Hall of Famer was incarcerated in Bradenton, just south of Tampa. During the 17 months, comedian Chris Rock, actor Will Smith, record mogul Russell Simmons and civil rights leader Jesse Jackson spoke out about his case.
Walters has lived in the United States since 1975. He is a legal resident but never became a citizen.
The INS had tagged Walters with a 1996 law calling for deportation of foreigners convicted of “aggravated felonies.” Walters served five years in prison on a 1991 attempted murder conviction for shooting his cousin, who he said had extorted money and threatened his family.
After he was released from prison in 1996, Walters resettled in New York with his wife, son and daughter. He bought a pair of apartment buildings and resumed his music career.
Slick Rick’s most notable work was his first full-length album, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, in 1988. It went platinum. He has released three other albums, all of which went gold.
Walters said he plans to put out another album with Def Jam Records, which may include material from his stay in jail.
“I’m not bitter, so I’ll just put it in a humorous way,” Walter said.