Hip-hop artist and actor DMX pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of tax evasion Friday in New York City federal court and was freed after posting $500,000 bail.
The rapper—whose real name is Earl Simmons—had a hit with “X Gon’ Give It to Ya’” in 2003, but he didn’t give anything to Uncle Sam at that time, hasn’t since and now owes at least $1.7 million, according to the IRS.
Simmons, 39, of Yonkers, turned himself in Thursday after being informed of the federal indictment. If convicted on all counts, he could receive a maximum sentence of 44 years in prison. Simmons was freed just before noon Friday, according to his attorney Murray Richman, and is due in court again Monday for a scheduling hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck.
“We have an entertainer who has been working on his art, his music, his films,” said Richman, explaining what will be the crux of his client’s defense. “He hires people to take care of things and they don’t do it. We are all under obligation to be responsible, but at the same time, can we really believe that he was plotting to subvert justice while others were there to assist him?”
Richman said his client’s star power wouldn’t be a factor in the proceedings.
“People who like his music are going to understand this situation, people who don’t like his music aren’t going to,” he said, “but neither will matter in court.”
DMX was set to perform Saturday at the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, and would do so, according to Richman. Under terms of his bail, he can’t leave the city and must submit to drug testing. Assistant United States Attorney Richard Cooper said that the prosecution agreed to bail for DMX, despite what Peck described as a “remarkable” rap sheet, because he and his lawyers were cooperative.
Simmons is charged with tax evasion and failure to file tax returns in what federal officials called “a multi-year tax scheme,” and is accused of telling a bankruptcy court that his income was unknown for the years 2011 and 2012, and just $10,000 in 2013.
DMX “went out of his way to evade taxes, including by avoiding personal bank accounts, setting up accounts in other’s names and paying personal expenses largely in cash,” said Joon H. Kim, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Simmons had two albums go to No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1998 and scored with the hit single “Party Up” in 1999. As a result of the income he earned from recordings, royalties and performances, from 2002 through 2005 he incurred federal income tax liabilities of approximately $1.7 million. The IRS began its efforts to collect in 2005. During the same period he appeared in four movies, including “Romeo Must Die.”
Simmons also filed no income taxes from 2010 to 2015, during which time he made $2.3 million, according to the indictment. When Simmons appeared on the TV show “Celebrity Couples Therapy” in 2011 and 2012 and was paid $125,000, he refused to participate until he was given a check with no taxes withheld, according to Kim.