Ja Rule was sentenced Monday to more than two years in prison for failing to file tax returns for three years. The rapper, real name Jeffrey Atkins, had begun a two-year prison sentence in June after pleading guilty to a 2007 weapons-related charge.
"I in no way attempted to deceive the government or do anything illegal," the 35-year-old said minutes before being sentenced in a New Jersey federal court. "I was a young man who made a lot of money -- I'm getting a little choked up -- I didn't know how to deal with these finances, and I didn't have people to guide me, so I made mistakes."
Currently serving the state sentence at Oneida Correctional Facility in upstate New York, Ja Rule appeared in court Monday handcuffed and wearing a yellow jumpsuit.
The majority of the 28-month federal tax sentence can be served at the same time the Grammy nominee is doing New York state prison time, a judge ruled when he was sentenced for attempted criminal weapon possession. Police had found an unlicensed, loaded, semiautomatic weapon in the rapper's Maybach after pulling him over for speeding after a July 2007 concert in New York.
He entered guilty pleas in the state weapons case in December and the federal tax case in March.
Depending on his release date for his New York sentence -- good behavior and the like could take that down to as little as 18 months -- he could serve an additional four to 12 months due to the federal sentence.
Though in the federal case he'd taken the hit for three years of unfiled returns, Ja Rule had admitted blowing that financial obligation for five years, a prosecutor said. He also was ordered to pay $1.1 million in back taxes on more than $3 million earned from 2004 through 2006.
Ja Rule's attorney, Stacey Richman, said her client was a talented high-school dropout who had not had the business prowess to handle sudden fame. In asking the judge for leniency, Ja Rule said he wanted to get back to work as soon as possible.
"My business is very 'out of sight, out of mind,' " the married father of three told the judge. "The longer I'm away, the longer it'll take me to get back to doing what I need to do to actually pay these taxes."
In addition to his music career, Ja Rule has appeared in more than a dozen movies, including "The Fast and the Furious" and "Scary Movie 3."
Assistant U.S. Atty. Joseph Mack had asked the judge not to let him off with no jail time on the federal charges, saying a message had to be sent.
"The court should impose the same sentence it would impose on someone who is not a celebrity," Mack said.
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-- Christie D'Zurilla
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Photo: Ja Rule leaves court in New York in December after pleading guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon stemming from a July 2007 arrest. Credit: Seth Wenig / Associated Press