Death Row Records co-founder Michael ‘Harry O’ Harris was pardoned by Donald Trump on Jan. 19 after spending 32 years in prison. Here are five things you should know about him.
President Donald Trump, 74, has pardoned Death Row Records co-founder Michael “Harry O” Harris, 59, on the last day of his presidency. The pardon comes after a secret campaign by Michael’s friend, Snoop Dogg, 49, according to Daily Mail. The former drug kingpin has been behind bars for attempted murder and cocaine trafficking for 32 years and was set to be released from a California federal prison on Tuesday.
Here are five things you should know about Michael and his situation.
1.) Snoop turned to Ivanka Trump, her husband Jared Kushner, and justice reform campaigners to convince Trump to let him out. A last ditch attempt succeeded on Jan. 18 when Trump signed the pardon despite White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows advising against it. The 45th U.S. president was apparently swayed by Michael’s family, who were spotted waiting for him to step outside to freedom at the Lompoc Federal Correctional Institution on Tuesday morning in a black Rolls Royce.
2.) He helped run a multi-million dollar rap label from his cell after founding the parent company for Death Row Records. After being convicted in 1988, Michael was put behind bars but didn’t let it stop him from being part of the important musical empire. Suge Knight approached him when trying to start up Death Row with Dr. Dre and with the help of attorney David Kenner, who was handling his appeal, Michael was able to set up Godfather, the parent company to Death Row, which was started in 1992.
Many high-profile rappers, including Snoop, Tupac Shakur, and Nate Dogg all signed to the label. After years of several successful releases, it became defunct in 2008.
3.) Criminal Justice reform advocate Alice Johnson also helped Michael get pardoned. Alice, who with the help of Kim Kardashian had her life sentence commuted by Trump in 2018, told the Daily Beast that she had been asking Ivanka, Jared, and Mark to have him released. “The president knows how much this case means to me,’ she told the outlet. “In reviewing Michael Harris’ case, his story, and what he’s gone through, this is such an unfair case… He should have been home a decade ago.”
4.) He admitted his involvement in selling drugs was “a big mistake” in 1997. “I had strong relationships with both the Bloods and the Crips. I was a player who knew how to get things done from the streets to suites. Back then I was blinded by the greed and the false sense of power,” he told the LA Times. “I know now that selling dope was a big mistake. Look what it did to my family. Look what it did to the community. Look where I ended up.”
He also spoke to DailyMailTV in 2019 and pledged to “give back” to the communities he was from. “Over 30 years ago, I was part of the problem. However, over the years I have repeatedly proven myself to be part of the solution,” he said. “It’s about returning to society with my newfound vision, talents, and insights [and] giving back to the communities where my help is so desperately needed.”
He added that he’d like to take his “implanted wisdom” back to the streets and hopefully help broken communities. “I know that from the moment I’m free I will work tiredly to help change lives,” he said.
5.) He and his ex-wife Lydia were awarded a $107 million judgement against Death Row Records and Suge. After Tupac’s death in 1996 and the departure of some of the record company’s biggest acts, the label began dwindling and Michael filed a lawsuit claiming he wasn’t being paid what he should have been by Suge.