American rapper Ja Rule was mobbed by fans seeking autographs as he left the Old City Hall courthouse yesterday after he was released on $10,000 bail on a charge of assault causing bodily harm.
Dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, the rapper, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins, refused to speak to reporters but signed autographs. Some fans offered their traffic tickets for the 28-year-old Grammy-nominated singer/actor to sign.
Mr. Atkins's Toronto lawyer, Steven Skurka, didn't say how his client intends to plead. But he told reporters that the rapper, who has made headlines in long-running feuds with other rap artists, including Eminem, is looking forward to his day in court.
Mr. Atkins flew into Toronto on Sunday night from his home in New Jersey and turned himself in to police yesterday morning. He is to return to court Aug. 30.
Police said earlier that the charge stems from an incident outside the La Rouge nightclub on Adelaide Street in the city's entertainment district June 5. Police said yesterday that as a result of the incident, a man filed a complaint. A ban imposed by Justice of the Peace Heather Frederick prohibits the publication of any evidence heard in court yesterday.
A spokeswoman at the nightclub said Mr. Atkins was not performing June 5, but was there socializing. She said he was a "regular customer" when in town.
This is not Mr. Atkins's only recent court appearance. He appeared this month in the New York borough of Queens, where he was ordered to pay a $100 (U.S.) fine for a summons dating back to 1991. Mr. Atkins told the court he had simply forgotten about it. Also this month, he pleaded guilty in Manhattan to driving with a suspended licence and paid a $500 fine.
After the release of his debut album in 1999, Mr. Atkins's star rose dramatically when he teamed with superstar Jennifer Lopez on I'm Real and Ain't it Funny. He also performed two duets with rising singer Ashanti.
His acting career includes a role in the 2001 film The Fast and the Furious. He has been in Toronto this year filming a remake of the 1976 movie Assault on Precinct 13.
While fans waited outside the courthouse for a glimpse of the rapper, the justice of the peace hearing his case had never heard of him.
"Are you famous?" she asked when Mr. Skurka requested the publication ban. He responded with a simple "yes" from the prisoner's box before she ordered the prohibition.
Such bans are routine at bail hearings to prevent evidence from becoming public that could jeopardize the right to a fair trial.
Mr. Skurka said his client did not get preferential treatment. "There is no celebrity status here," the lawyer told reporters. "You don't get treated differently in this country if your name is Martha, Michael or Ja Rule. Everyone is treated the same and he'll be treated fairly."
But Mr. Atkins did receive some special treatment. He was brought into court ahead of dozens of other prisoners, and his case was heard first. And as Mr. Atkins was about to leave the courtroom, Ms. Frederick told him: "Sir, good luck." Such comments in courtrooms are rare.
A loud cheer erupted from other prisoners when he was taken into the back of the courtroom. "Ya Ja," the other prisoners chanted, prompting Ms. Frederick to remark it must be a sign of his popularity.
She imposed several conditions on the bail, which was to be paid in Canadian dollars. Ms. Frederick remarked that the amount would be about a penny to someone as famous as him.
He is banned from using alcohol or drugs when in Canada, from frequenting the city's entertainment district except to perform, and from communicating with the complainant and witnesses.