Freddie Gibbs Finally Discusses the Trial That Almost Cost Him His Freedom
After being charged with sexual abuse, locked up in two foreign jails and exhausted by the fight for his reputation in a bizarre trial, Freddie Gibbs is free and finally ready to tell his story.
Words: Emmanuel Madualokam
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
Being charged with a horrible crime you didn’t commit would mess up anyone’s life. For a celebrity, it could destroy their career. Enter Fredrick Tipton, better known as the rapper Freddie Gibbs, who dealt with just that when he was charged with sexual abuse last year.
The nightmare started for Gibbs on June 2, 2016, when he was arrested by French police outside the Hôtel de Brienne before a performance at Rex Club in Toulouse, France during the European leg of his Shadow of a Doubt tour. The Gary, Ind. native was accused of sexual abuse stemming from an incident alleged to have taken place in Vienna, Austria 11 months earlier on July 6, 2015.
On that evening, Gibbs performed at Grelle Forelle and admitted that he and his friends met two women—aged 16 and 17 at the time—backstage after the show and brought them to hang out in one of their rooms at the hotel Meliá Vienna. From there the story gets confusing. The morning after the show, the women reported to police that an unnamed friend in Gibbs’ entourage had sexually abused them. Ten months later, in May of 2016, the 17 year old told authorities she remembered Gibbs had sex with her the night of the incident and then additionally accused the rapper of sexual abuse. (Age of consent is 14 in Austria so, legally, the accusers weren’t underage). The Austrian newspaper, Kurier, reported that Gibbs and his friend allegedly took advantage of the two women after their drinks were possibly spiked backstage by someone at the show.
With the new charges set it motion, the Viennese prosecution applied for a European arrest warrant—a warrant valid through all members of the European Union—for Gibbs only. The warrant was approved by the Vienna Court of Appeals on May 31, 2016. Two days later, Gibbs was arrested by French authorities in Toulouse. The friend, who was also accused, has never been officially apprehended, charged or faced trial because he returned to the U.S. months earlier and stayed there. Gibbs was supposed to perform at the Grelle Forelle in Vienna, Austria again on May 26, 2016, but canceled on short notice. On that day Gibbs tweeted, “Apologies to my fans in Vienna, Austria. Had some transportation issues. Will be back soon.” The tweet has since been deleted. (The Kurier, reported that the club said Gibbs canceled due to health reasons.)
After two weeks in Maison d’arrêt de Toulouse-Seysses, Gibbs was bailed out of jail for 50,000 euros (then approximately $56,000) but was told he couldn’t go anywhere and his passport was confiscated. On July 31, 2016, Gibbs voluntarily withdrew his appeal so he could be extradited to Austria to face trial. He was sent to U-Detention at the Justizanstalt-Josefstadt Prison. On Aug. 16, the rapper was officially charged with “sexual abuse of a defenseless or psychologically impaired person” and faced a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison. He was released from prison two days later after posting bail and paying another 50,000 euros, but he was again barred from leaving the country.
On Sept. 30, 2016, after 37 days in jail, another 90 days stuck in two foreign countries and a four-hour trial, the Vienna regional court acquitted Gibbs of all charges. For his part, Gibbs denied having any physical interaction with the women. The evidence that was presented in court in Freddie Gibbs’ favor was strong. Video surveillance footage from Meliá Vienna showed the two women walking under their own power before and after the alleged incidents and hanging out in the hotel lobby, helping dispel any theory that they were heavily inebriated.
Two witnesses at the hotel during the night of the alleged crime, who had no connection to the rapper, testified in Gibbs’ defense. The first said that he picked up one of the women on the main floor of the hotel, brought her back to his room and she threw up while he uncorked a bottle of wine. A hotel employee testified that he escorted the woman back to the main lobby after the incident where she got sick, and, later that night, she asked for his phone number. Both witnesses testified the women never mentioned anything about a sexual assault. DNA evidence used in the trial also didn’t match the rapper’s DNA.
Gibbs’ lead lawyer, Philadelphia based Theodore Simon (one of 11 attorneys on the defense team), told XXL that in a police report from the initial accusations both accusers claimed they had had sex with Gibbs’ friend but at different points in the night. They allegedly didn’t realize they slept with the same man until the next day. It was after discovering that fact that the two women went to the hotel to do their own investigating and then to the hospital. Police were then involved, and rape allegations were made against Gibbs’ friend but not Gibbs at that time.
“We have always maintained unconditionally and without any doubt that Freddie would be and now has been fully exonerated and completely vindicated,” offered Simon in a statement released after the verdict. “We are pleased and thankful that the Court recognized the same trust and confidence we and all of his fans have had in Freddie that justified and resulted in his absolute acquittal. While we are appreciative of the verdict of not guilty, nothing has changed. The actual facts have always demonstrated that Freddie was and is 100 percent innocent. It is now self-evident he was wrongly accused. The trial has confirmed our belief that after a searching and complete investigation and trial the true and actual facts would be revealed—that there always was an absence of any scientific, physical or credible evidence that would warrant in any way such an accusation. Freddie and his family look forward to returning to the States so he can resume his life and career.”
Simon told XXL, “It was the equivalent of looking the devil in the eye and prevailing through unrivaled perseverance with dignity and grace. That was Freddie, he is a special guy.”
Within 24 hours of the trial, Gibbs and his fiancée Erica Dickerson, who held him down the whole case, returned to their home in Los Angeles and to their then 17-month-old daughter, Irie Jane. Over the past seven months, Gibbs has dedicated most of his time to his family and recording his newest project You Only Live 2wice and his upcoming Madlib-collaborated LP, Bandana.
While at Chandler Toluca Lake Studios in North Hollywood on a late February afternoon, Gibbs, 34, spoke for the first time ever about the crazy case that changed his life and almost stole his freedom.
XXL: Take us through July 6, 2015. What happened?
Freddie Gibbs: Pretty much on that day, July 6, 2015, I had a show in Vienna, Austria. A regular night, I did my show, people [were] backstage, the show went well. There were a lot of people backstage, DJs, other artists, females, of course. People were drinking, people were smoking, a normal backstage. When [the girls] came back [to the hotel], they were with the homies and I went up to my room and I went to sleep. Whatever happened past that I don’t know because I wasn’t up for it. Apparently the girls came to one of the homies’ room and they had sex.
The next day they filed a report on my homie. The Austrian Police contacted my booking agency a week later and they let me know that my friend was [accused of ] sexual assault. I was like, “Wow, what does this mean?” and they said, “If he comes back here, he’ll be arrested.” So I let [my homie] know [he was being accused]. At this time, I wasn’t even involved in this [case]. I wasn’t named in any allegations whatsoever. This is the first report [the women] made, [and it’s] the day after it happened. My name wasn’t in it because, clearly, I wasn’t even around and nothing physical went down. Only time I saw these females was backstage, arriving to the hotel and that’s it.
So with the allegations, I just told [my homie] that he might want to handle this. “I don’t know how serious it is to you. But I’m telling you as a friend, I don’t think you want to walk around with this rape charge hanging over your head in whatever country.” He’s American, a cat from the streets. He’s not going to go back to Austria. He was only there because I was there. My guess is [the two women] got frustrated with the fact that they weren’t going to make an end to this case. The girls got some kind of rape activist lawyer in their country. I think I arrived in Europe for my next tour on May 18, 2016, and the day after that the girls went to the police and said, “I had a flashback that Freddie Gibbs was involved in this rape, too.” They had a dream that I was also involved. Basically I got indicted for a so-called flashback, a dream and that was [what] it was.
Did your friend come tell you he just had sex with the women?
I didn’t believe him. I was like, “C’mon my nigga, you bullshittin’.” But apparently he did, the fucking physical evidence was there. Both these women, he had sex with them. Did he rape them? I don’t know. I can’t say if he did or he didn’t.
Did he know how old they were?
I can’t say that either. I don’t know what he knew or [was] thinking at the time. I knew I wasn’t fucking with these women, whether they were old enough or not for me. I don’t need to fuck no women backstage at my show that I don’t know. That’s been a rule that I’ve been playing by for years. When it came to them, like I said, it wasn’t for me.
In reports they said the other accused person was your security guard, was that guy your security guard?
They said that but it definitely wasn’t a security guard, I don’t have security guards. It was just the homie.
The day after of the incident in July 2015, the two women went to the police and filed a report on your friend. You got word through your agency a week later and told your boy. When you came back to perform again, 10 months later in May 2016, the two women went to the police again to change their story?
I was there May 18 and I believe they changed their story [to police] May 20, if I’m not mistaken. If there were any issues with anything with me, as soon as I got to Europe, I would have been arrested. I had no issues whatsoever. I wasn’t involved in this case at all.
So they went to the police in May and you were arrested in June?
Correct. That’s when they were able to catch up to me or something, I guess. I was on my tour but I wasn’t notified of anything of that nature, it was just, “[We] got your Black ass.” I was doing a show in Paris the night before, and I drove to Toulouse, France, South of France. As soon as I got to my hotel room, there’s like 20 police officers, plain clothes, I think even the damn bellboy was a cop. Niggas selling newspapers on the corner pulled out a gun. I just got snatched up. I still had my bookbag on my back. It was crazy. They just snatched me up into the police car and they initially said that it was an American matter. Like about five or six hours later, they came to my cell and said I’ve been arrested for sexual assault. I just laughed and was like, “Let’s get the bail because I know this is bullshit.” They said it’s not going to be a bail and I’m going to sit here until it’s figured out and I might be extradited to Austria.
What was the treatment like for you?
It was horrible. I’m a Black American. Every country has racism and things of that nature so I can’t put the racist label over an entire country. But it definitely had that stigma. “This where Adolf Hitler was born,” that’s all that was running through my head. Everybody in Austria is not a racist, but it was definitely a lot of racists in my situation.
You were arrested in Toulouse, France. What was the treatment like there?
It was horrible too. Those French policemen are some bitch-ass niggas. They were trying to make a nigga rap and shit like that, rap and get food. It was all on the news and everybody has a TV in their cell. So every night, I’m on the news, “A Black American rapes two White girls.” They put me in a cell block full of rapists, muthafuckas that rape their own wives and their own daughters. I don’t deserve to be in this shit. It was just a fucked-up experience. I don’t want to be amongst those muthafuckas. They really rape people. That ain’t in my DNA at all.
Who did you call first when you got arrested?
Shit, I didn’t really get to use the phone for a while. Probably like first week I was there they didn’t let me use the phone. Luckily my road manager Max Robin, he coordinated everything, got with Lambo, [my manager Ben Lambert], got with Erica and everything. They put my lawyer team together. Between Max and Lambo, they handled all of that and Erica and my lawyer [Theodore Simon], they got the foreign lawyers that I needed in France, because I had to fight the extraction to Austria and I had to fight for my bail to get released in France. I couldn’t really make any calls. The calls I made were to Lambo, my mom and my baby mama, that’s about it. Just to let them know that I was breathing. I couldn’t really coordinate anything. I thought I was about to get out because I still had dates on my tour. But the jail system doesn’t work like that overseas. Like, over there you’re guilty until proven different.
The coverage of this case was vastly different in the States than overseas. It was immensely bigger overseas while it was sporadic news coverage here. What was that like for you being public enemy No. 1?
Yeah, I was definitely public enemy No. 1 in Europe when this case was going down. People eat what they serve. It was crazy. It was a heart-breaking situation to be accused of something like that. It’s a scar on my name. Even beating the case still, I still got to fight to let people know this isn’t part of my character. I had nothing at all to do with this. People that really fuck with me and really know me, they knew off the top that this is bullshit. But you still got people out there like, “He might beat that shit and pay his way out of it” or some shit like that. Nah, I got totally acquitted. I literally never hugged these women. I was totally blindsided. We had no physical contact whatsoever. I don’t even think there was even a handshake. If you can go off that and charge somebody with rape, that’s crazy.
The stipulations and charges for shit overseas are different. They wanted to give me 10 years in prison for this. I remember one day they came to my cell and asked me, “Do you want to go home?” I said, “Fuck yeah, I want to go home. I miss my daughter, muthafucka. I’m in here for another muthafucka, for some shit I had nothing to do with. I got a daughter, my nigga.” These niggas came into my cell and said, “You got 10 years on the table, admit this shit today and we’ll give you three.” So I said, “Y’all want me to lie on myself and take three years in prison, away from my child, than fight for my freedom? Go talk to my lawyer.”
This was in Austria or France?
This was in Austria.
When you posted bail in France, what went through your mind? You had to check in with police three times a week. That had to be debilitating.
I felt like I was on a fucking leash. Every week I had to check in with them. I don’t have a passport. I’m spending all this money on apartments out there. I had to stay in certain apartments in certain areas where they can make sure where I’m at. I definitely wanted to get it over with. Something in my head was thinking and praying that this will get dropped or maybe the French government would say [they] can’t extradite me on this bullshit. But my lawyers were like, “We’re going to have to fight this head on.”
What was the prosecution’s argument? What actual evidence were they presenting?
The only evidence against me was a phony statement. There was no physical evidence against me. There were no witnesses who said I had sex with these girls or dealt with these girls in any type of matter. The girls claimed that someone drugged their drinks. I’m like, “Y’all ain’t even got good weed over there, where am I going to find a goddamn date rape drug?” I don’t even know what a date rape drug look like. I never had that in my possession whatsoever.
[The women] claimed they blacked out and they didn’t know how they got from backstage at the concert to the hotel. But it was clearly documented by the hotel cameras that they walked in under their own power. Nobody was stumbling or anything. From my recollection, I don’t even remember the girls being sloppy drunk. They weren’t incoherent or falling over the place. They were totally in control of their action. Then another person that was in the hotel claimed during the night the girls came in his room as well. This is another muthafucka who wasn’t even with us. He came to court and said the girls came into his room and had drinks. And they went downstairs after they left the hotel and they asked the receptionist for his phone number. He testified that in court. All of this behavior, to me, it’s not parallel with someone who got raped. Strolling around the hotel, going in random muthafuckas rooms. It was all totally bullshit.
Who was with you during the time you were locked up overseas and this entire process?
Max was there the whole time pretty much, and Erica came and she brought my daughter. My mom came too. It was pretty much me and them and the lawyers. It was times when I was by myself, and that was really difficult. Like I said, just getting up to go get food was fucked up.
The language barrier had to make it difficult, right?
Not just the language barrier but just the fuckin’ psychological aspect that I can’t talk to people on the street. Fuck the language barrier, like, people speak a little English and I could get around, but I feel like I couldn’t engage in any conversation because I’m on bail for rape. Imagine how that made me feel. I don’t want to talk to nobody. How the fuck I strike a conversation?
How did you tell your girl about your situation?
She knew I didn’t do that shit so it wasn’t even a question. She solid. She super solid. She knows I’m guilty of a lot of things but definitely not any shit like that. It was never a question in her mind, and I love her for that. She never ever thought that l was lying. I never got that ridicule at all from her.
What was going on when you were being extradited?
Yeah, that shit was bullshit. We had an arrangement with the Austrian government. We paid France a big-ass bill and we were like, “Can we pay bail in advance so when I get there, there’s no issues?” I’m coming in and going in to my hotel and waiting for the trial to start. And they were like, “Cool.” My lawyers made that agreement with the Austrian government so I wouldn’t have to go to jail when I get there. I can just do the trial, present all the evidence and knock it out the park because it was all bullshit. That was my thinking. Like, “Alright, I’m going to have to be there for a couple of months, but fuck it, I’ll get this off my name and be cleared and I have no fucking choice.”
So, we made that agreement with them and they sent two punk-ass cops to come and get me. They were all nice to me, getting me coffee and making it seem like it was all good. Like, they felt some kind of sympathy for me. We get to Austria kind of late in the night and I was like, “Damn, how are we going to handle this? It’s almost midnight?” So we pulled up to the prison [and] I knew these muthafuckas are about to go back on the agreement we made. Lo and behold they said, “It’s the weekend, you’re going to have to stay here for at least the weekend.”
I’m like, “What the fuck?” Sunday comes around and I go see the judge. Not the judge I made the agreement with and sent the money to already but a different judge. The [original] judge went on vacation when I was in transit. The new judge said, “Tell me your side of the story.” I let him know pretty much everything I’m telling you and he was flat out like, “I don’t believe you, so I think I’m going to leave you in investigative custody.” Basically, I had to sit jail in Vienna for another month until the first judge that I made the agreement [with] came back from vacation. That was very discouraging because if they can do this, I’m done. They definitely going to sentence me for some bullshit. I’m in their clutches.
Did you ever think, I could lose? I could go to jail for 10 years?
Correct, because I definitely wasn’t going to lie on myself and take the three years. I was going to fight it to the end.
That moment in jail, what was that like? Did you meet anyone that stuck out? Make any friends?
That was probably the roughest time I was there during that time in Austria. I felt like the guards are a little more racist. The whole set-up was kind of racist.
Did you get attacked or anything?
Fuck no, I wasn’t getting a lot of attacks, but it was definitely a lot of threats. I was in the section with the rapists and shit. So when we went out into the yards, everybody that was in their cell would be yelling all kinds of shit, definitely a lot of racial slurs. But nothing I’m not used to in America, though. It was still a fucked-up situation. I don’t care about you calling me no muthafuckin’ nigger but don’t call me no muthafuckin’ rapist at all. I don’t want that shit attached to my name whatsoever. That was the killer part, that’s what hurt me the most—and just not seeing my daughter.
I was feeling like the U.S. Embassy ain’t do shit for me. They cared more about their relationship with Austria than they did for an American citizen that’s been falsely accused. I’m being held captive for some bullshit. Any fucking real judge or lawyer can look at this case and tell it was bullshit. The case should be easily dismissed. The U.S. Embassy were just like, “Ah, we just making sure you’re alive and breathing.” They didn’t give a fuck. I feel like if I was a White American male in that situation, I’m out. I probably never would have got locked up or extradited and that’s the honest truth. [The] U.S. Embassy did not assist me any way. They brought me two bullshit books. I read them though because I didn’t have anything else to read. And, the books Erica was bringing, they didn’t let her bring those in: Korans, Black books, and things of that nature. All the Black literature that she was bringing, they wouldn’t let me get it.
How did you get updated on stuff?
I would get calls. After a while I started using the phone because at first they weren’t even letting me put my own money to use the phone. I call home probably like once or twice a week. When I got on bail I was really able to get things in order. In that situation, thank God I got a good job. If you didn’t have money, those 10 years right in your face would have been over with. It was one guy that I was in Austria jail with, I [will] never forget him and he was African. My experience with the African cats in there, a lot of them didn’t really...I felt weird. They didn’t really fuck with me. They didn’t really connect with me. Some of them did because they knew who I was, but the overall thing with them was, “You an American nigga, we don’t fuck with you.” That shit struck me as weird. I was like, “Damn man, we all over here in this bullshit.” But they weren’t fucking with me also because I was on the rapist side. Like, “You a Black American and a rapist, get the fuck out of here.”
But there was one guy that did, his name was Love. He introduced me to Dr. [Rudolf ] Mayer, one of my lawyers in Austria who [helped] put the case together against the girls and the prosecution and they made it work for me. Thanks to them and what they did because it was a long journey coming home. Longer than what some people think. I literally had 11 lawyers working on this case all in conjunction. I lost a lot of things, a lot of time from my family, luckily I didn’t lose my name. I see a lot of people glorify cats that got rape stuff attached to them. To me that shit ain’t cool. This is probably the worst thing someone can accuse you of in my book.
The videos of you in Austria court, you look so isolated.
It was literally me against the world. Their courtroom is set up different. It’s not like a stand and a judge. It’s like four judges and your legal team, and you’re sitting in the middle of this semicircle right there the whole time during trial, not understanding a word, so I got to keep looking at my lawyer facial expressions. The girls tried to sell this story so crazy, they didn’t appear in the courtroom. I had to see them via on a Goddamn screen in another room. They claimed that they were too afraid to face me because I intimidated them. They were on a video conference. They didn’t even have the guts to come in the courtroom and confront me. When they did that I knew I was going to win this shit. “It was all bullshit.”
The courtroom looked packed.
It was the prosecution, the judges, my legal team and a whole bunch of people.It
was a big case in that country. That’s why they tried to hang my Black ass, because it was a big thing. It was election year coming up for a lot of muthafuckas there, so of course they want shit like this, a high-profile case and put a nigga on his ass for some shit he didn’t do. Especially since they felt they weren’t going to ever get the other guy, they thought, let’s get me. I’m the one with the bread. Then we can sue him in civil court and take everything he got. That was the move in their mind. But when the case got presented, we had so many witnesses in our favor. We had so much evidence in our favor. I’m taking selfies of myself in my room at the time that the incident allegedly happened, I was time-stamped. We gave this shit to the prosecution months ago, but they said, “We don’t give a fuck.” We had this evidence: the cameras in the fucking hotel. I’m in my room by myself, why the fuck is it this big witch hunt? It was totally racially and financially motivated.
They used your lyrics in court too, right?
Correct, they used my lyrics in court. Of course I got some sexually suggestive lyrics. The things I rap about are definitely not for everyone’s ear, but it ain’t no rape shit in my lyrics. I won’t say no names but I hear shit recently rapping about rape and shit. And muthafuckas bumping it like it’s cool. That shit ain’t cool.
Was there a jury for the trial?
The four judges were making the whole decision. It wasn’t a jury. So that’s another fucked-up part about it. But maybe I’m glad it wasn’t a jury because how the fuck is it going to be a Goddamn jury of my peers in Austria? I’m going to fucking lose. It’s going to be a bunch of old White people sitting in front of me like, “Get his ass.”
Talk about the day you got acquitted.
It was awesome. I walked in the courtroom with my head held high and I walked out the courtroom with my head held high ’cause I know I didn’t do shit. The whole time, it was a four-hour trial, I knew I was winning the whole time. It’s like, when Floyd Mayweather is cruising in a fight, that’s how I felt the whole time. My lawyer kept winking at me and like, “Yeah, we’re good.” So basically, they just wasted four months of my muthafuckin’ life for this and I’m about to slam-dunk in y’all faces. It was a great feeling. I was going home, my daughter was there, Erica was there. It was great. It was just like, I’m about to go home. But that shit really took a lot out of me. When I got home I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to be involved with this rap shit really because I felt like if some fans can do this shit to me, I’m just going to chill. The only thing I was craving was time with my daughter. That was all that I was craving when I was [locked up], spending time with my daughter, and when I got back that’s all that I did.
Did the hip-hop community support you?
Definitely, it was some people that supported me heavy. My boy BJ The Chicago Kid, he was hitting me all the time. Charlamagne Tha God was hitting me all the time, that’s the homie. There were some people that were throwing little bullshit comments, I saw that. It was even niggas that showed no support at all, muthafuckas that I worked with. It’s one bitch-ass nigga in particular, while I’m over there on fucking bail for this bullshit case, I’m going through it, my family going through it, this bitch-ass nigga asked me to post his muthafuckin album that was about to come out. He said, “Damn, bro, sorry to hear that. Can you post this?” He knows who the fuck I’m talking about. Shit like that let me know how certain muthafuckas don’t give a fuck. That was a fucked-up situation to be in with no love, but by God’s grace I did get love. I ain’t worried about the few muthafuckas that were saying some dumb shit. It’s just a funny story.
The two worst things you can label someone is a rapist and a racist. How has that affected your business?
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hit me financially. It was a huge hit. I had 11 lawyers; you can do the math on that alone. [Laughs] I missed numerous amounts of shows and appearances and who knows what other opportunities. I felt like a lot of people were like, “Let’s see what happens with this shit before we stand by Freddie.” You had people that supported me that knew me and knew I didn’t do this shit. And, you had people who didn’t really know and they were scared to touch me. Even with all the evidence out there, everyone isn’t going to read the whole article, everybody isn’t going to read all the facts. All you have to do is put rape next to somebody’s name and it’s done. It affects everybody differently and it created a scar on my name that I had to patch up. Like I said, it’s young rappers with shit like that on their name and they don’t give a fuck and the hip-hop world don’t give a fuck, but not me. I got a daughter, I have nieces, I have sisters, I have a mother.
What have you been doing since you got home?
I just been chilling, I haven’t been doing shit [Laughs]. I just been chilling with my daughter. My daughter about to be two, I just been chilling with her and watching her develop and a lot of reading. I’m trying to do some work in the community now. I’ve been doing a lot of everything but rapping.
See Exclusive Photos of Freddie Gibbs From His XXL Magazine Interview