The Wrong Team was the name of a song performed by Ishmael McLean and Rowan Simon which resulted in the former being sentenced to a term of four years imprisonment with the latter receiving thirty months. Which in itself would be something of a curiosity, since it is not often that the British legal system takes offence at the mere exercise of what might be regarded as freedom of speech.
It all revolved around the case of one Jason Johnson who was shot in an alleyway behind Cavendish Avenue at Ealing in West London at around 8.50 pm on the 21st November 2008. He was found dead at the scene, and a post mortem examination confirmed the cause of death as a single gunshot to the chest. He was twenty-four years old. It appeared there had been an 'incident' earlier that day after which Johnson, together with a group of his friends, had gone to the alleyway known locally as 'dead man's alley' to resolve the dispute.
The Metropolitan Police succeeded in identifying an eyewitness to the shooting, and as a result of their inquiries a total of eight people were arrested and charged with the murder of Jason Johnson. Six of these individuals, being Rowan Henry, Marcus Selby-Johnson, Dale Ebanks, and three other youths who were not named at the time as they were under the age of eighteen, were due to face trial for murder, but were subsequently cleared when the prosecution decided to offer no evidence. There were said to be "compelling reasons" why this decision was made, although they "could not be made public", whilst the case was not reported for fear of prejudicing future legal proceedings.
It appeared that a certain Rowan Simon, together with Ryan Esprit were amongst the youths who had originally been charged with the murder, and that Ishmael McLean had also been arrested during the inquiry but was never charged with murder. It was these three individuals who got together to write and perform the Wrong Team, and then got hold of a music video director to produce a video of them performing the song, which was then placed on YouTube with links to the appropriate MySpace and Facebook profiles.
It turned out that the Wrong Team was a song that might well be described as an example of that musical genre known as gangsta rap, as the lyrics featured such remarks as; "Me I just give the strap lovin and I make it bust, Cos I can see the snakes hiding in the fucking grass and for a month now the spotlight's been on us" and "I can't wait for the snitch to drop, I still show up at his wake just to see him off" as well as including the refrain "My guns bang, your guns jam, You're fucking with the wrong team".
In any event the existence of the song became known to the Metropolitan Police who decided in February 2009 to arrest those responsible. Given that all three were persons of interest in a murder inquiry, they naturally concluded that the video had been made with the sole purpose of intimidating any witnesses to the extent that they would refuse to give evidence. It was therefore decided to charge McLean, Simon and Esprit with perverting the course of justice, and also of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.
Their trial opened at the Old Bailey in September 2009 but had to be abandoned when Ishmael McLean became ill with a stomach bug that was rampaging through Wandsworth Prison. The trial was however soon restarted and on the 6th October 2009 both McLean and Simon, were convicted by 10-2 majorities of acting to pervert the course of justice, although Esprit was found not guilty. The guilty pair were remanded in custody for sentence on the 27th November, at which point McLean was jailed for four years and Simon was for 30 months, with McLean receiving another concurrent sentence of a year in jail for the possession of ammunition.
Which may well have been the first time in history that someone was sent to prison for making a YouTube video.
- Man killed in alleyway identified, BBC News, 23 November 2008
- Tristan Kirk, West Ealing murder victim named, Ealing Times, 23rd November 2008
- Youth charged over alley murder, BBC News,6 December 2008
- Dan Hodges, Three more Ealing men face Johnson murder charge, Ealing Gazette, Feb 27 2009
- Brendan O’Neil, Criminal minded? Rappers take the rap, 08 Oct 2009
- Rappers guilty over internet song, 6 October 2009
- Shenai Raif, Rappers used song to scare off murder witnesses, The Independent, 6 October 2009
- Police offer reward to help find killer of Jason Johnson, Ealing Times, 23rd November 2009
- Rappers jailed over warning song, BBC News, 27 November 2009