June 10, 2011

For Stars, Fans and Paparazzi, Court’s the Spot

The scene outside the courthouse in Lower Manhattan on Wednesday was familiar, as a central figure, surrounded by a flock of photographers, lumbered toward the building’s entrance.

A few feet away, a man in a baseball cap wore a look of disgust and surprise.

“What happened to Ja?” the man shouted as the rapper Ja Rule walked past.

“Ja, you good?” the man asked.

Outside the main Manhattan Criminal Courts building, a path to the entrance has become a law-and-order version of the red carpet. While celebrities stroll, reporters and camera crews line the periphery. Fans and others are relegated to the back.

Until recently, the platinum standard for such chaos was set by the rapper Lil Wayne, when he received a one-year jail sentence in 2010 for attempted possession of a weapon.

Fans and the news media gathered hours before Lil Wayne’s arrival. His sport utility vehicle had to make a second pass at the building before he could get out. Once his feet touched the pavement, a mob scene ensued. More than a hundred people swarmed him, nearly trampling one another.
Sports stars get similar treatment; court officers placed metal barricades so the former New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress could make his way to the courthouse relatively unimpeded.

But the honor for creating the most carnival-like atmosphere might go to Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund. When Mr. Strauss-Kahn arrived at the courthouse Monday morning to be formally charged with attempted rape and other counts in State Supreme Court, a roar went up, and hotel housekeepers began chanting, “Shame on you.”

The reception for Ja Rule, who was to receive a two-year sentence after pleading guilty to attempted gun possession, was less of a spectacle.
At the most, 10 photographers awaited his arrival, including a television camera crew with a boom microphone. There was no noticeable gathering of fans. A court officer who works at the building’s entrance said, “Compared to the last couple of weeks, that was just like a normal person walking in.”

For his part, Ja Rule did not seem to be embracing the moment.
When his black Ford Flex pulled into a parking lot across the street from the courthouse about 1:50 p.m., he sat behind the tinted windows for several moments while the photographers pounced.

“It’s unbelievable they’re converging on the car,” his lawyer, Stacey Richman, said.

A man standing nearby said that whoever was in the car needed to step out to face his time.

Then, at 1:52 p.m., Ja Rule emerged, dressed in a white V-neck T-shirt, gray sweat pants and white shoes. He wore brown, thick-framed Ray-Ban sunglasses.

When a cameraman asked if he had anything to say to his fans, he responded, “See ya’ll in 18,” a reference to the number of months he expects to serve before he is eligible to be released.

“One love,” he added.

The only other thing he said, as he clutched his wife, Aisha Atkins, was, “Watch out for my wife now.”

Ja Rule’s manager, Ron Robinson, said that it made sense that Lil Wayne would create more of a furor on his way to jail. “At the time he went to jail, he was the No. 1 rapper in the game,” Mr. Robinson said of Lil Wayne.
But that is not to say that Ja Rule, whose latest album, “Pain Is Love 2,” is due out at the end of July, was shy about his fate.

On Tuesday, he sent a Twitter message that he was spending his last day out with his family, going to see “X-Men: First Class.” Just after noon on Wednesday, he posted another message, “Out on my patio having my last free moment I love all my fans Pain is love!!!”

The courtroom proceeding lasted all of about two minutes, and Ja Rule declined to say anything before Justice Richard D. Carruthers sentenced him to two years in prison.

When members of his family said, “Love you,” after he was handcuffed, Ja Rule replied, “Love ya’ll too.” Then, court officers escorted him through a back door and out of sight.

No comments: