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RAP STAR DMX FACES NEW CHARGE

Earl Simmons, the Grammy-nominated rap artist known as DMX, could face a return engagement in the Erie County Correctional Facility, his current residence, if found guilty of a contempt-of-court charge.

On Tuesday, less than a day after he surrendered at the Alden facility to begin a 15-day jail term, the 30-year-old White Plains resident was arraigned before Cheektowaga Town Justice Thomas S. Kolbert on the new charge.

Simmons pleaded innocent to the charge, filed by Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark, and was directed by Kolbert to return to court for further proceedings at 6 p.m. March 14.

Clark said he had lodged the misdemeanor charge against Simmons Feb. 9, when the rapper was supposed to surrender to begin a jail term imposed in May by Cheektowaga Town Justice Ronald E. Kmiotek.

If found guilty of the charge, Simmons could face a sentence ranging from unconditional discharge to a year in jail.

"(Simmons is) very angry because it seems so irrational," said Mark J. Mahoney, the singer's chief local attorney.

"The intent from the beginning was not to give this guy an inch," Mahoney said. "There's a clear vindictiveness to this."

Kmiotek had issued an arrest warrant Feb. 9 for Simmons, after the rap artist lost an appeal that was rejected Feb. 8 by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara of Buffalo.

Personal gratification is motivating the prosecutors and the court, Mahoney said. "That, to me, is the greatest threat to our judicial system. This is what we have to fear -- the abuse of power," he said.

Simmons was arrested on the Kensington Expressway in Cheektowaga on March 29, several hours after he had headlined a concert in HSBC Arena.

He pleaded guilty in May to driving without a license, marijuana possession and two parking tickets. This was his fifth unlicensed driving arrest since September 1998.

Simmons is expected to be released from jail early next week.

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