(CBS/AP) NEW YORK - Rapper G. Dep was convicted Tuesday in a 1993 murder to which he suddenly confessed in 2010, stunning police.
Born Trevell Coleman, G. Dep, 37, faces at least 15 years in prison at his sentencing, set for May 8.
The rapper, a married father who flirted with fame in the late 1990s and early 2000s as a member of Sean Combs' roster, reopened the cold case murder of John Henkel when he walked into a New York police precinct to say he'd fired at someone on a Harlem street corner when he was about 17 to 19.
G. Dep had apparently been wrestling with his conscience for some time. His life spiraled into disarray with a slate of arrests on drug, trespassing and other charges. He had finished a drug-treatment program and had released a new album online in the months before he came clean.
"I couldn't move on and keep trying to satisfy myself if I didn't deal with that," he told the hip hop magazine XXL in a jailhouse interview published in June. " ... I didn't know what was going to be the outcome, but that was the only way I knew to deal with it."
The victim had grabbed the rapper's .40-caliber gun, and he pulled it back and fired at the man three times, G. Dep told authorities in a recorded statement played during his trial. After the gunfire, he said, he rode off on a bicycle, unsure whether the man had been struck. G. Dep didn't testify at trial.
Authorities paired his account with the 1993 death of Henkel, 32. Henkel was shot three times with a .40-caliber gun at the same corner in October 1993, when G. Dep was nearing his 19th birthday.
"The more you study the evidence, you'll see it just matches up too greatly for coincidence," Assistant District Attorney David Drucker said in an opening statement.
But G.Dep's attorney Anthony Ricco questioned whether police had made the right match. He noted discrepancies between G. Dep's statement and Henkel's shooting - including that the rapper said he thought the shooting happened in February or March, rather than the fall, and described the victim as blond and clean-shaven when Henkel had brown hair and wore facial hair.
The rapper, he said, has no way of knowing for certain whether Henkel was indeed the man he shot. He ultimately filled in some of the details from information police gave him, the lawyer said.
G. Dep turned down an offer to plead guilty in exchange for a guaranteed 15-years-to-life sentence that is now the minimum he faces, Ricco said.
Regardless, he remains convinced he did the right thing by coming forward, said Ricco.
"He has a conscience and a heart, and his conscience and his heart brought him to where he is today," Ricco said after court. "He's probably making the most powerful statement a rapper of his era can make, which is to be accountable and to do the right thing."
G. Dep's wife and mother wept after hearing the verdict and his relatives are heartbroken and torn about his decision to speak up, Ricco said.
Henkel's relatives didn't testify at the trial. But one of his brothers followed it through news accounts.
"I'm thankful that the justice system worked for this, for my brother's benefit and my family," Werner Henkel said by phone after hearing of the verdict.
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