"; ?> Rocafella BLOG 5.1 | ROC Podcast in the Works
Rocafella.comRocaWear.comOffical Kanye West Web SiteDash Films - Coming Soon


ROC Media Kit: RMK1.0
Quick Reviews
Aztek Escobar
The Charles' Critical Corner

Antman (MIA)
Nikki (coming soon)


Kanye does so why don't you. Speak your mind on the new Messageboard. Its up to you to build the community. Unlike Rocafella.com's forum its free.
Jay-Z & Timbaland »

What do you get when you take the greatest living rapper and the greatest hip hip producer. You get one hot album. Sign the petition and lets make it happen.

by kenn on 9/20/2005 02:14:00 PM

Jay-Z's Real Name? Alias Leads to Bad Rap



James Johnson can trace his troubles back to rapper Jay-Z's Hard Knock Life.

He spent more than a month and a half in jail in Delaware County charged with a crime he didn't commit, accused of being a man he wasn't. And prison officials had to ignore a lot of facts to keep him there.

It began in 2000, when Johnson, 28, was listening to the Jay-Z album just before being charged with attempted theft, he said. He was innocent, he added, and out of anger, told police his name was Shawn Carter - Jay-Z's real name.

Five years later, Johnson, now head custodian at the World Cafe Live on Walnut Street in West Philadelphia, learned that the past has a way of catching up with a man.

Johnson spent 44 days in the George W. Hill Correctional Facility beginning April 6 for crimes committed by a man known as Shawn Carter. During that time, he told guards, a counselor, a public defender and prosecutors that he was the wrong man. Nobody listened.

Any of these known facts could have sprung Johnson:

He was in jail at the time of Carter's arrest.

Johnson's sister and sister-in-law are Hill Correctional Facility employees. Officials ignored their pleas that Johnson was not Carter.

Carter had a dragon tattoo, which was described in the arrest warrant. Johnson did not.

Authorities never compared the two men's fingerprints.

Officials had photographs of both men.

Carter is 3 inches taller than Johnson.

Shawn Carter has become a common alias of criminals, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

His case adds to pressure against the appointed county prison board and the GEO Group, the private firm that runs the jail. A series of recent prison deaths - five in five months - has brought the scrutiny of the county's top prosecutor and prompted an internal investigation by the company. And earlier this year, GEO agreed to pay $125,000 to the family of an inmate who hanged himself by his boot strings in 2002.

Now, Johnson is suing the county, the correctional facility, and GEO, accusing them of violating his civil rights. Because of the lawsuit, county and company officials refused to comment on the Johnson case.

While Johnson was complaining on the inside that he was wrongly jailed, his fiancée, Shilonda Hargrove, was banging on doors on the outside.

"My fiancée kept calling and calling and saying, 'All you have to do is look at the fingerprints,' " Johnson said last week.

He said GEO also refused to hear the pleas of his sister and sister-in-law, both correctional officers at the jail.

"They were like, 'He came here as Shawn Carter, so that's who he is,' " Johnson said.

Deputy Warden John Reilly said GEO had a policy that an inmate could be held until his identity was established. That's usually about four days, he said.

Johnson's odyssey began on March 17. Known to friends as Jay, Johnson was met by Darby police with guns drawn when he arrived home from work that day, he said. They had a warrant from Delaware, where he had failed to show up for a preliminary hearing on the 2000 attempted-theft charge.

He was extradited to Delaware. He pleaded guilty on March 25 and paid $150. He was about to leave the prison when his jailers stopped him.

The prison had found a warrant in Delaware County for a Shawn Carter, and recognized it as the alias used by Johnson in 2000, a prison official said.

"Our folks sent a teletype asking [Delaware County] to confirm the identity of the gentleman," said Delaware Department of Corrections spokeswoman Beth Welch. "The only information they could supply... was height and weight."

Carter was 174 pounds and 6-foot-2; Johnson, 165 pounds and about 5-foot 11. Both their birthdays were Sept. 8. Carter was born in 1978 and Johnson in 1977, court records show. Both are African American.

Johnson said he had told jailers in Delaware that he wasn't the Carter that Delaware County authorities were seeking, but they didn't believe him.

The rapper's name has become a popular alias. At least seven men in prisons in Pennsylvania right now have used it, according to the state Department of Corrections' Web site.

According to court documents, Johnson was arrested on a second charge in Delaware on March 3, 2001. He was charged with driving without insurance or a license and with possession and use of marijuana. He wasn't released until March 9, 2001, according to a Delaware Superior Court criminal docket. Yet the warrant for Carter was for a March 8, 2001, drug arrest in Chester.

Johnson thought that fact would speak for itself when he arrived at the Delaware County prison on April 6. Instead, he was immediately processed under the name Shawn Carter.

" 'I'm not signing nothing,' " he said he told his jailers. " 'You can't make me be this guy.' "

His sister-in-law warned him that prison officials said they would "find another charge" if he didn't stop carrying on about his name, he said. He also was getting hungry, and inmates must sign for food.

"Finally I was like, 'Let me be this guy so I can eat,' " he said.

Johnson was sure his true identity would set him free when, at a May 16 hearing, prosecutors showed photos of Johnson and Carter to a judge.

Wrong again. The judge wanted to wait for Carter's fingerprints. Johnson was back in jail.

The next time he was taken to court, May 19, the fingerprints were still not there, but he was finally released. The arrest warrant for Carter described a dragon tattoo on one arm. Johnson sports a tattoo of the letter J. The judge signed an order acknowledging that the arrest was a mistake.

At the prison, Delaware County District Attorney G. Michael Green's office has been investigating four deaths - a heroin overdose, two apparent suicides, and an unexplained fatality. The fifth death stemmed from a fight, and the killing was ruled self-defense.

Johnson said he regretted lying about his name in 2000.

"I've made mistakes; I'm not perfect," he said. "But that shouldn't give them the right to lock me up all that time for nothing."

Free Apple iPod Program