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Why Did Ja Rule Go To Prison?

Ja Rule, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins, is an American rapper, singer, and actor who rose to fame in the late 1990s. He is known for hit songs like “Always on Time”, “Mesmerize”, and “Wonderful”. Despite his musical success, Ja Rule has had several run-ins with the law over the years. In 2011, he was sentenced to prison for gun possession and tax evasion. This article will examine Ja Rule’s legal issues and explain why he ultimately served time behind bars.

Background on Ja Rule

Ja Rule was born in 1976 in Queens, New York. He started rapping as a teenager and made a name for himself on the underground hip hop scene. In 1998, he was signed to Def Jam records and released his debut album Venni Vetti Vecci. The album was a hit, reaching #3 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Over the next several years, Ja Rule had a string of popular collaborations and solo hits. He worked with rappers like Jay-Z, DMX, and Ashanti. Some of his well-known songs include “Always on Time” with Ashanti, “I’m Real” with Jennifer Lopez, and “Mesmerize” with Ashanti. From 1999 to 2004, Ja Rule had multiple platinum albums and was nominated for several Grammys.

Legal Issues Begin

In the mid 2000s, Ja Rule began having run-ins with the law. Here are some of the key events that started his legal troubles:

  • 2003 – He was arrested for driving with a suspended license and possessing marijuana. He plead guilty to traffic violations and was ordered to pay fines.
  • 2004 – He assaulted a man in Toronto and was charged with assault. The case was resolved by pleading guilty to disturbing the peace.
  • 2005 – The IRS filed a $6 million tax lien against Ja Rule and his wife for unpaid taxes from 2000-2004.
  • 2007 – He was arrested for gun possession after a gig in New York City. The charges were eventually dropped.
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While these initial brushes with the law resulted in fines, probation or charges being dropped, Ja Rule’s legal issues were just beginning.

Federal Weapons Charges

In July 2007, Ja Rule was stopped by police after a concert in New York City and arrested for gun possession. Police found a loaded semi-automatic handgun in his $250,000 Maybach.

Ja Rule did not have a permit for the illegal weapon, so he was brought up on federal charges. He pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon in December 2010.

In June 2011, he was sentenced to 2 years in prison for the federal gun charges. Ja Rule admitted he knew the gun was illegal but needed it for protection due to growing up in a dangerous area of Queens.

Tax Evasion Conviction

Separate from his federal gun charges, Ja Rule also faced legal consequences for not paying his taxes.

The IRS had filed a $6 million lien against the rapper and his wife back in 2005 for unpaid taxes from 2000-2004. Then in 2010, he was charged with failing to pay taxes on more than $3 million in income between 2004-2006.

In June 2011, Ja Rule pleaded guilty to tax evasion. He admitted to not paying taxes on income he earned from 2004-2006 as well as illegally writing off business expenses on his taxes.

For the tax evasion charges, Ja Rule was sentenced to 28 months in prison. His tax evasion sentencing was served concurrently with his 2 year gun sentence.

Time in Prison

In June 2011, Ja Rule began serving his federal prison sentence concurrently for the gun and tax charges. He served most of his time in the Ray Brook Federal Correctional Institution in upstate New York.

Ja Rule was initially supposed to be released from prison in February 2013. However, he ended up getting out early for good behavior on May 7, 2013. He had served about 21 months behind bars.

While in prison, Ja Rule continued to work on music and even earned his GED. But his incarceration definitely put a halt on his rap career that was already starting to decline in the late 2000s.

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Life after Prison

After being released from prison in 2013, Ja Rule worked to get his career back on track. He told the press he had matured after the sobering experience of doing time.

In 2014, he released an album called Pain Is Love 2, but it did not regain the success of his early 2000s hits. He has continued putting out some singles here and there in recent years.

Outside of music, Ja Rule has worked on rebuilding his family and brands. He has 6 children with his wife, Aisha Atkins, who he married in 2001.

In 2015, he launched a clothing line called Fresh Kidz. He has also promoted apps and appeared in commercials.

While Ja Rule is now living as a free man, his career has not fully recovered to the heights of his early fame. However, he has accepted responsibility for his crimes and moved forward after serving his time. Going to prison reinforced lessons about obeying the law and paying taxes that he ignored during the peak of his success.

Table of Ja Rule’s Legal Issues

Here is a table summarizing key events from Ja Rule’s various legal issues that ultimately led to his conviction and imprisonment:

2003Driving with suspended license, marijuana possessionFines after pleading guilty to traffic violations
2004Assault charges in TorontoPleaded guilty to disturbing the peace, probation
2005$6 million IRS tax lienClaimed financial mistakes by accountants
2007Gun possession in New YorkCharges eventually dismissed
2010Federal gun chargesPleaded guilty, sentenced to 2 years in prison
2011Tax evasion chargesPleaded guilty, sentenced to 28 months in prison
2013Released from prison early for good behaviorServed about 21 months total

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the various legal issues faced by Ja Rule that led to his conviction and imprisonment:

What were the gun charges against Ja Rule?

In July 2007, Ja Rule was arrested for illegal gun possession after police found a loaded semi-automatic handgun in his car without a permit. This led to federal charges in 2010 for attempted criminal possession of a weapon to which he pleaded guilty.

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What were the tax issues?

Ja Rule failed to pay taxes on $3 million in income between 2004-2006. He also illegally wrote off business expenses during those years. He pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges in 2011 for not paying federal taxes.

How long did Ja Rule spend in prison?

Ja Rule was initially sentenced to 2 years for the federal gun charges and 28 months for tax evasion charges, to be served concurrently. He spent around 21 months in a federal prison from 2011-2013 before being released early for good behavior.

Where was Ja Rule imprisoned?

Ja Rule served the majority of his prison sentence at Ray Brook Federal Correctional Institution in Upstate New York.

How much were the tax liens against Ja Rule?

The IRS filed a $6 million tax lien against Ja Rule and his wife in 2005 for unpaid taxes from 2000-2004. This was before he was charged for also evading taxes from 2004-2006.

Did going to prison negatively impact Ja Rule’s career?

Yes, Ja Rule’s musical success and popularity declined during his legal troubles in the late 2000s. His imprisonment from 2011-2013 halted his career. Though he has released music since, he has not regained the fame of his early 2000s hits.


Ja Rule was one of the biggest names in rap music in the early 2000s. However, the height of his fame was followed by a series of run-ins with the law starting in the mid 2000s. His legal issues culminated in convictions for federal gun possession and tax evasion in 2011.

Ja Rule ultimately served most of a 2 year prison sentence from 2011-2013. He has accepted responsibility and vowed to move forward positively after his time behind bars. However, his career never fully recovered after the damaging impact of these criminal convictions at the height of his fame.

Going to prison reinforced for Ja Rule the importance of obeying laws and meeting tax obligations. The series of charges he faced offered a cautionary tale about how legal troubles can derail career success. However, Ja Rule has worked to turn his life around and regain his footing after paying his debt to society.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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