Rapper Juelz Santana was one step closer to officially being labeled a fugitive in New Jersey on Sunday morning, nearly 36 hours after he reportedly fled Newark Airport in a taxi after security agents found a gun in his carry-on bag. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) strictly forbids any firearm from bags being carried on any flight.
It is unclear when exactly the incident happened, but local police following up on the report visited Santana’s nearby home late Friday night and said no one was there, according to NorthJersey.com. If he doesn’t turn himself in soon, it’s likely just a matter of time before federal law enforcement gets involved, if it hasn’t done so already. Santana was expected to surrender Sunday morning, according to the South Passaic Daily Voice.
Strangely enough, there has yet to be any airport security surveillance footage released to the public, a move police love to do, especially when there are Black suspects involved. (Don’t be fooled by the stage name: the rapper who was born LaRon Louis James is most definitely Black.) That means there could be an outside chance that whoever fled the airport may not be the rapper at all, since it wouldn’t come as any surprise to learn authorities confused one brown face for another. However, since identification documents must be presented at every turn in an airport, the likelihood of the suspect not being Santana are pretty slim.
Either way, the reported episode sparked a burst of mocking social media memes imagining Santana’s reaction when he learned that Port Authority police was told he had a gun.
But if it is ultimately proven that the rapper had a gun at an airport’s federal security checkpoint, his legal future will be far from a laughing matter.
“If you bring a weapon in a carry-on bag and attempt to board a plane, you will be facing criminal charges and fines and the TSA can impose a civil penalty and fine you up to $10,000,” according to the Rosenblum Law Firm, which is based in the New York City area and has an office in New Jersey. NorthJersey.com put that fine figure at $13,000.
It also depends how “attempt to board a plane” is defined, since all reports indicated that Santana never made it past the checkpoint. But Santana’s fate could go well beyond semantics since he is already a convicted felon, a designation that prohibits him from having a weapon in the state at all.
TSA rules require a mandatory “criminal referral” in addition to a fine for any cases having to do with guns. But perhaps making matter worse for Santana, “Any person who knowingly has in his possession any handgun, including any antique handgun, without first having obtained a permit to carry the same as provided in N.J.S.2C:58-4, is guilty of a crime of the third degree,” according to New Jersey state law.
The combination of all of the above could spell out some significant jail time for Santana, who has revived his once-promising career as of late with appearances on a popular reality TV show.
“New Jersey gun/firearm possession crimes will almost always carry mandatory prison if the defendant is convicted,” according to the Essex County NJ Criminal Attorney Blog. Unlawful possession of a handgun in New Jersey is a crime enforced by the Graves Act, which “mandates a prison sentence, usually for 42 months, during which time the defendant will be ineligible for parole if convicted of carrying a gun without a carry permit. Prior record for similar offenses can enhance the penalties.”
Worst case scenario, Santana will be state’s property for a few years. But with an estimated net worth of $9 million, chances are he will be just fine in the long run. As long as he stays away from guns.