ATLANTA – Rapper T.I. has admitted having unregistered machine guns and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Now he has a chance to avoid a lengthy prison sentence by telling kids not to make the same mistakes he did.
T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris, must spend at least 1,000 hours talking to youth groups about the pitfalls of guns, gangs and drugs before reporting for about a year in prison under a deal worked out Thursday.
"I'm looking forward to turning this negative time in my life into a positive," Harris, 27, told reporters after the hearing. "I know I have a long road of redemption to travel."
Dressed in a gray business suit, Harris pleaded guilty Thursday to possession of unregistered machine guns and silencers, unlawful possession of machine guns and possession of firearms by a convicted felon.
He will be sentenced to serve about 12 months in prison after completing the community service, although his prison time could be increased or reduced depending on his fulfillment of the terms of the deal and good behavior, officials said.
Harris is one of rap music's most successful artists. His sixth album, "T.I. vs. T.I.P.," was released July 3, debuting at No. 1. He appeared in the 2007 film "American Gangster," which starred Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.
U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said Harris will remain "under strict bond conditions" during the next year.
He said Harris' sentencing was deferred "to allow him to perform a unique and extensive program -- at least 1,000 hours -- of community service. That service will focus on using his high public visibility and his talents to tell at-risk young people about the mistakes he has made and to educate them about the dangers of violence, guns, gangs and drugs."
Nahmias said under the agreement, Harris will have to serve a year in prison and three years of supervised home detention, perform a total of 1,500 hours of community service and pay a $100,000 (euro63,000) fine.
Failure to fulfill his obligations will net Harris a "much longer prison sentence," Nahmias said.
Harris told reporters he takes the charges against him very seriously.
"I'd like to thank God for blessing me with a second chance in life and success," he said.
He was arrested Oct. 13, just blocks away and hours before he was to headline the BET Hip-Hop Awards in Atlanta.
Harris was charged with possession of unregistered machine guns and silencers, as well as possession of firearms by a convicted felon. He faced a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 (euro158,000) fine for each count.
He was allegedly trying to buy unregistered machine guns and silencers. He initially pleaded not guilty, and has been under house arrest since he was released on $3 million bond on Oct. 26.
U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell Jr. must approve the deal.
Harris, who is co-CEO of Grand Hustle Records, grew up in Atlanta. His first taste of success came with his 2003 album, "Trap Muzik." In 2004, warrants were issued for his arrest on probation violations for a drug conviction, and he was sentenced to three years behind bars.