Eric Heisig / Houma Courier
HOUMA — A 32-year-old who rapped about selling prescription drugs in online videos was convicted of drug possession in a Terrebonne courtroom Thursday. He faces up to 60 years in prison.
Clyde Smith, 2614 Daniel Turner Trailer Court, Houma, was convicted of possession with intent to distribute multiple bottles of the anxiety medication Xanax and the muscle relaxer hydrocodone, as well as attempted possession with intent to distribute the muscle relaxer Soma.
He, along with his fiancee, Christian Pontiff, and two other locals, Jason Pierce and Andrea Dehart, were pulled over by a State Police trooper on U.S. 90 in December for allegedly going 19 mph over the speed limit.
Trooper Christopher Mason testified that Smith couldn't produce his driver's license. Smith and the other passengers also gave conflicting stories about where they were coming from.
When Mason asked Smith to step to the back of his car, Smith put his hands up, which seemed suspicious, Mason said.
Mason asked Dehart if he could search the car, and she said yes, he testified.
After searching the car and finding multiple legally acquired prescription-pill bottles from clinics in Texas, the group was taken to Troop C and questioned. Pierce told investigators they were taking the trip to get medication in order to deal it in Louisiana. Smith, Pierce, 30, and Dehart, 25, were arrested.
Pontiff was not charged. Pierce and Dehart will be tried at a later date.
Prosecutors said the group made multiple trips to Houston to buy pain medication and sell it in Louisiana. One Xanax pill goes for as much as $7 on the street, Assistant District Attorney Jason Dagate said in his closing arguments.
Among the evidence presented during the three-day trial were two videos Smith made with local rap group The Rico Gang, in which prosecutors said Smith admitted to his crimes. Dagate zeroed in on statements Smith, known as “G-Red” or “Tattoo Face,” made in the video for the track “B.M.F. Freestyle.” In that piece, he talks about going to Texas to buy drugs.
“Another trip to Texas ... we going doctor shopping,” rhymes Smith. “I'm Dominoes, I'm Pizza Hut. Call your (expletive) up because you know I deliver.”
Behind-the-scenes footage was also played, in which Smith says he did everything his songs talked about.
“We really do the (things) we talk about. And we really take those trips,” Smith says in the video.
Despite the prosecutors' claims, Smith testified his subject matter is often fiction. While he raps about real life and growing up in Daniel Turner Trailer Court, Smith said he also raps about what he saw other people do.
“It's nothing but entertainment,” Smith said. “I sometimes rap about real life. But I know a lot of people that sell drugs. I try to touch on what I saw. I can't rap about Summerfield or (La.) 311.”
Smith's attorney, Carolyn McNabb, said in her closing arguments that rap was on trial and the videos would unfairly sway the 12-member jury.
After the trial, McNabb said Smith made the videos last summer, months before his arrest and says the content is fiction. “How stupid would that be to rap about what he was doing?”
Dagate played both videos during closing arguments.
“It's not like we targeted the guy because he was a rapper. But not only was he rapping about dealing prescription medication, he was rapping about getting AK-47s, and he's been convicted twice of attempted possession of a firearm,” Dagate said.
While other witnesses, including Pierce, said they were making the trips to Texas specifically to buy the pills, Smith denied it.
Smith, who said he splits his time between Terrebonne and Port Arthur, Texas, testified he often drove from Port Arthur to Houston for check-ups and prescription refills, describing the 90-mile trip as “right down the road.”
Smith said all of his prescriptions were legally obtained, taken to quell the pain caused from a bullet fragment lodged in his neck. He takes Xanax to calm his anxiety, he said.
“If I was really selling drugs, I wouldn't be rapping,” Smith said. Smith's mother, Connie Ostean, said the jury's verdict is “unjustified, but it isn't over.”
Dagate said he plans to charge Smith as a habitual offender, which could result in a longer sentence.
Smith was convicted of crack possession in 1996 and two counts attempted possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in 2002.
District Judge David Arceneaux will decide after a hearing whether Smith is a habitual offender. His next court date is July 25. He faces up to 60 years in prison as a habitual offender.
After the trial, Dagate said prosecutors are seeing increased drug cases because medication is easily accessible in Houston.
“It's because of drug dealers like this defendant,” Dagate said.