MARTINEZ -- A Bay Area rapper on the notorious Thizz Nation label is facing more than eight years in state prison for human trafficking and other crimes after a Contra Costa County jury's verdict Friday.
The jury deliberated for a half-day before finding Vallejo resident Joel Williams, known by the rap moniker J-Hype, guilty of four felonies -- human trafficking, pimping, pandering, and drug furnishing and transportation -- and misdemeanor battery.
The victim in the case is a woman in her 30s who briefly dated Williams, 38, before agreeing to work for him as a prostitute in late 2011, deputy district attorney Chad Mahalich said.
When the woman wanted to leave that lifestyle in mid-2012, Williams started beating her and threatening her life.
"He threatened to kill her, and threatened to have his Thizz Nation associates kill her," Mahalich said. "She was told the only way she could leave was if she paid him $15,000. That was impossible; he was taking every penny she earned."
Concord police arrested Williams on May 11, 2012, for possessing 19 methamphetamine pills when officers came across him and the victim in a car outside a Motel 6. Officers suspected the woman was a prostitute based on her clothing, but she denied the allegation at Williams' direction, Mahalich said.
Williams was free on his own recognizance when he was arrested by Concord police again on Aug. 23, 2012, for beating the victim in a room at a Best Western hotel. This time, the victim told police that Williams had been forcing her to prostitute herself all over the Bay Area, Mahalich said.
Another woman who had worked as a prostitute for Williams testified at the trial that he was also violent with her. A third woman initially told police the same thing but then testified on Williams' behalf, Mahalich said.
Williams himself testified that he was not a pimp but rather a manager for strippers.
Williams' defense attorney declined to comment Friday.
Williams, as J-Hype, last released a CD in 2008 for the Thizz Nation label, which evolved from but is unaffiliated with the label managing the music made by revered Vallejo rapper Mac Dre before he was shot and killed in Kansas City, Mo., in 2004. Mac Dre's label, Thizz Entertainment, has been maintained by his mother since his death.
Twenty-five people associated with Thizz Nation, including the CEO and numerous rappers, were indicted in federal court in April as part of a massive drug-trafficking case. Police said the group distributed Ecstasy and other drugs across the country to finance the Thizz Nation label. Williams was interviewed by investigators but not charged in that case.
Williams is expected to be sentenced to eight years and four months in state prison March 27. Had he committed the same offenses a year later, he would have faced a much stiffer penalty under the voter-approved 2012 human trafficking initiative, Proposition 35.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.