McKinley “Mac” Phipps Jr.
, a former No Limit rapper, was granted parole
and released from prison
on Tuesday after serving nearly half of his life in prison for a fatal shooting
at a Louisiana
nightclub when he was 22.
Phipps Jr., 43, was released just hours after the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Committee on Parole unanimously granted parole after serving 21 years of a 30-year sentence and maintaining his innocence. His case gained renewed attention in 2015 after five witnesses told Stardia they were intimidated into testifying against him by prosecutors.
“We feel deeply relieved and blessed to have McKinley home,” his wife Angelique Phipps said in a text message to Stardia on Wednesday, “and we look forward to this next chapter of life.”
When speaking during an online parole hearing attended by his parents, Sheila and McKinley Phipps
, and his wife, Phipps Jr. expressed gratitude for the opportunity.
“I apologize to everyone who was impacted by this situation, and I especially want to apologize to the victim's family
and anyone else who was impacted in any way.”
Phipps Jr. stated that he intends to assist his mother's business
, an art
gallery and studio, as well as work
as a painter for a friend's construction company.
In 2001, Phipps was found guilty of manslaughter in the death
of 19-year-old concertgoer Barron “Bookie” Victor Jr. at a nightclub in Slidell, Louisiana, a year earlier. Victor Jr. was shot after a fight broke out at an event where Phipps, a rising star signed to No Limit Records at the time, was scheduled to perform.
Phipps, his friends
, family, and fans
have long maintained he was not involved. In 2015, a series of investigative reports by former Stardia reporter David Lohr exposed a number of flaws in his conviction, including a confession from a bodyguard, which prosecutors dismissed, and five witnesses who signed affidavits swearing they were ignored or coerced into giving false testimony.
A previous parole application in 2016 was denied, and a more recent legal effort to overturn his conviction stalled after the Supreme Court
decided not to retroactively apply its ruling that non-unanimous juries, such as the one that convicted Phipps, were unconstitutional.
The parole board voted to grant clemency in February, and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signed off on the request in March. A clemency grant recognizes a person's efforts in self-development; it does not exonerate them of criminal charges.
Officials with the Board of Parole noted on Tuesday that Phipps Jr. had a stellar record while incarcerated, with no disciplinary infractions, receiving technical education
certifications and leading mentorship programs for younger inmates. He was doing a work-release program in Lafourche Parish when he was paroled.
Phipps Jr.'s release is subject to conditions, including a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., a prohibition on entering alcohol-serving establishments, 6 hours of community service with at-risk youth
each month, and weekly meetings with his parole officer for the first 90 days.
Angelique Phipps said the Supreme Court's decision last month was disappointing, but for the time being, they were focused on getting Phipps Jr. settled and off to a successful start in his new chapter of life, and they will revisit the possibility of exoneration in the future.