Jurors did not ♥ Cuban Harry’s Instagram defense.
Harrison Garcia, the self-professed “CEO of Purple Drank” who chronicled his flashy lifestyle alongside famous celebrities, swore he only posed with guns to build street cred for his tough-guy social media persona — not to protect real-life dope slanging.
But the Miami federal jury took less than four hours to reject Garcia’s claim, convicting him Monday on five felonies that could land him in prison for life.
The 27-year-old, who went by the name “Muhammad a Lean” and “Cuban Harry” on Instagram, was accused of selling marijuana, Xanax and the potent prescription cough syrup known as “lean,” “drank” and “sizzurp.” He’ll be sentenced June 3 for the convictions relating to armed drug trafficking.
Garcia was part of crews associated with the international hip-hop scene, jet-setting with the big-name stars, driving exotic cars and posing with wads of cash on social media.
His Instagram page — with over 30,000 followers — displayed a lifestyle straight out of a rap video; he proudly showed off flashy gold chains, jewel-encrusted teeth and many tattoos, including one of the fictional drug kingpin Scarface flashing an assault rifle.
Over four days of testimony last week, jurors heard that Garcia admitted he sold “large amounts of narcotics” to rapper Lil Wayne, and received a $15,000 payment from singer Chris Brown for drugs, including lean.
Jurors viewed undercover videos of two drug deals Garcia allegedly completed with two confidential informants posing as buyers. They also also saw a slew of Instagram photos of Garcia showing off an arsenal of guns, five of which were seized by federal agents.
“It’s clear he has reason to protect himself — he’s dealing drugs,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Rilwan Adeduntan told jurors on Friday during closing arguments.
Jurors were not told that Garcia is also facing state racketeering charges in Broward, where authorities say he paid a crew of young men to bust into dozens of Walgreens and CVS stores to steal the pricey bottles of promethazine with codeine syrup.
On Friday, Garcia’s defense team countered by calling the government’s case an “Instagram prosecution” really aimed at Brown and Lil Wayne.
His lawyers cast Garcia as a drug addict and wannabe rap producer who used the weapons as props for Instagram and music videos, not for drug dealing.
“My client is a 27-year-old schmuck,” defense lawyer Gustavo Lage said. “He is a kid who talks big and is trying to be something he’s not.”
Garcia’s defense, however, hit some bumps in the road Friday. They unsuccessfully attempted to show jurors a clip of the music video for “Brick in Yo Face” by the rapper named Stitches. The reason: to suggest that Garcia was similar, a wannabe thug showing off guns for the audience.
“Is this Lil Wayne,” U.S. Judge Patricia Seitz asked.
“No,” was the reply.
She shook her head, “I don’t think so,” Seitz said, pointing out that jurors heard no evidence about Stitches.
And the defense’s only witness on Friday flopped. Garcia’s friend took the stand to explain that he didn’t really live at the supposed Miami drug house raided by agents.
But the woman, Norellys Garcia, no relation, admitted that she got drugs from him — then abruptly invoked her right to remain silent when pressed by prosecutors. The judge scrambled to find Norellys Garcia a defense lawyer, who advised her to keep invoking the Fifth.
The judge allowed her to leave the witness stand for good — and jurors were told to disregard her testimony.
Nevertheless, the defense argued that Garcia was a nobody unfairly targeted.
“If he is the equivalent of the Pablo Escobar of promethazine with codeine, why is he living in Hialeah ... or Kendall?” Lage asked. “Why isn’t he living in La Gorce or Gables by the Sea?”
Prosecutor Jonathan Osborne shot back: “This case is not about Instagram. It’s about what he did when he thought no one was looking.”