By The Associated Press on December 23, 2023.
NEW YORK (AP) – Rapper Travell “G. Dep” Coleman, who walked into a New York police precinct in 2010 and admitted to committing a nearly two-decade-old cold case murder to clear his conscience, has been granted clemency by Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Now 49, Coleman has served 13 of a 15-year-to-life sentence. With his sentence being commuted by the Democratic governor, he will now be allowed to seek parole earlier than his original 2025 date.
Coleman is one of 16 individuals granted clemency by Hochul in an announcement made Friday. They include 12 pardons and four commutations. It marked the third time Hochul has granted clemency in 2023.
“Through the clemency process, it is my solemn responsibility as governor to recognize the efforts individuals have made to improve their lives and show that redemption is possible,” Hochul said in a written statement.
The rapper earned an associate’s degree while in prison and facilitated violence prevention and sobriety counseling programs, while also participating in a variety of educational and rehabilitative classes, according to Hochul’s office. His clemency application was supported by the prosecutor in the case and the judge who sentenced him.
As G. Dep, Coleman had hits with “Special Delivery” and “Let’s Get It” and helped popularize a loose-limbed dance called the Harlem shake in the early 2000s. The rapper was one of the rising stars of hip-hop impresario Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Bad Boy Records label in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But his career slumped after his 2001 debut album, “Child of the Ghetto,” and the rapper became mired in drug use and low-level arrests, his lawyer said in 2011.
Attorney Anthony L. Ricco said at the time that Coleman “had been haunted” by the 1993 fatal shooting of Henkel and decided to confess to shooting someone as a teenager during a robbery in East Harlem. Henkel was shot three times in the chest outside an apartment complex.
His brother, Robert Henkel, had demanded Hochul reject the urgings by prosecutor David Drucker to release Coleman, calling it a “farce.” He told the New York Post that “it is one thing to seek (clemency) for drug crimes – but not murder.”