Rapper 42 Dugg loses courtroom battle for bond in gun case

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — A federal magistrate judge reluctantly kept up-and-coming Detroit rapper 42 Dugg jailed Thursday after prosecutors argued he was dangerous and a flight risk, a move that jeopardizes his performance at Little Caesars Arena on Sunday.

The rapper, real name Dion Hayes, 25, was poised to leave jail after being locked up since Monday after U.S. Magistrate Judge David Grand ordered his release on a $10,000 unsecured bond. But prosecutors appealed, clearing the way for Hayes to be transferred to Georgia to face a federal gun charge.

Detroit rapper 42 Dugg stars in a video for "You Da One" with Yo Gotti. The video has more than 11.9 million views. (Video: YouTube)

The dramatic tug-of-war over a prominent Detroit rapper unfolded during an hour-long court hearing that featured details about a lucrative rap career, allegations Hayes possessed firearms and marijuana, aired concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and included one miffed magistrate judge.

Defense lawyers wanted Hayes freed, saying he has lived a crime-free life since being released from prison three years ago — punishment for convictions for carjacking and felony firearms possession.

Grand said photographs of semi-automatic firearms, marijuana and ammunition seized from Hayes' cell phone was not clear and convincing evidence that the rapper was dangerous.

“I don’t know what permission the government had to even seize these photos,” Grand told Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert VanWert.

The detention hearing was held three days before Hayes was scheduled to perform during the "March Badness" concert at Little Caesars Arena alongside rappers Yo Gotti, DaBaby, Kash Doll and others. 

Hayes was indicted Tuesday in a federal court in Georgia after being accused of possessing a firearm. The gun case dates to November when Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents received an anonymous tip that Hayes fired a weapon inside Stoddard's Range and Guns in Atlanta.

Dion Hayes, left, fires a pistol inside the Atlanta gun range, prosecutors said.

Hayes is not allowed to possess a firearm due to convictions for carjacking and felony firearms possession in 2010.

Investigators reviewed video surveillance and documents from the gun range and learned Hayes and two others visited the gun range Nov. 8, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.

The surveillance video showed Hayes possessing, loading and firing a 9 mm Glock pistol, according to the criminal complaint.

“They saw him on a video camera at a gun range,” defense lawyer Steven E. Scharg told the magistrate judge. “Not that he was found walking down the street with a gun in his hand, not that they saw him with a gun in his waistband, not that he was ever stopped in a vehicle with a gun in the car.”

After his arrest Monday, investigators reviewed photos from his seized cellphone. An initial analysis revealed multiple photos of firearms and brick-shaped packages of marijuana, the prosecutor said.

Investigators also have recovered a text message Hayes sent threatening to kill or assault an unidentified person, and details about a gray Dodge Challenger towed from the rapper's home in Detroit.

"It was riddled with bullet holes," VanWert said.

The rapper's defense lawyers questioned the legitimacy of the photos and the government's right to seize the photos.

The magistrate judge questioned whether investigators found firearms during the arrest Monday.

"Did he have anything on him?" Grand asked.

"A cell phone," the prosecutor said.

"So no firearm on him?" the magistrate judge asked.

"Correct," VanWert said

"No narcotics on him?" Grand asked.

"Correct," the prosecutor said.

Hayes made suspicious phone calls from jail after his arrest, instructing associates to "clean his room" where photos indicated firearms were stored under his mattress, VanWert said.

“I understand it may be inconvenient for Mr. Hayes to be indicted now, but it does not change the fact that Mr. Hayes, from the contents of his own cellular phone, shows that he is in regular possession of multiple weapons of mass destruction on a monthly, if not daily, basis," the prosecutor said.

Hayes has paid his debt to society and is making a "substantial amount of money" as a rapper, Scharg said. Hayes has 27 concerts scheduled through April.

"The pictures," Scharg said, "are just pictures."

The allegations Hayes fired a weapon inside a gun range, in a "somewhat controlled environment,' are not as severe as the normal gun crimes filed in federal court, the magistrate judge said.

“He has all sorts of family and community support,” Grand said, “and it appears he is a well-known performer. And he has scheduled appearances and makes a very good amount of money doing that. He has no reason in the world to flee.”

Grand signaled he would release the rapper on bond with several conditions, including wearing a GPS tether, avoiding firearms, leaving his Detroit neighborhood and living with a girlfriend in Macomb County.

He credited Hayes with embarking on a lucrative career as a convicted felon.

“This defendant is, like, one in a million,” the federal magistrate said. “I hope you recognize that.”

“Yes, sir,” the rapper said.

“Whatever persona you want to have on stage and in your videos is one thing,” Grand said. “But that cannot bleed over into real life.”

Hayes had one question about being released from jail.

"I travel with 24/7, like, armed security," Hayes said. "Will he be able to be with me?"

Yes, the magistrate judge said.

Before Hayes could leave jail, the prosecutor intervened.

The government filed an appeal, keeping Hayes jailed while the appeal unfolds in Atlanta.

"This is really an egregious position for the government to take," the magistrate judge said. “What photographs show the defendant in possession of the firearms?"

Hayes lost the short-term fight to go free and rap Sunday. 

Prosecutors on Thursday downplayed Hayes' busy performance schedule while alluding to the coronavirus pandemic.

"It might be a moot point," the prosecutor said.


Twitter: @robertsnellnews