EXCLUSIVE (ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT): The teen-sex trial of promoter Mendeecees Harris begins tomorrow, but the former “Love & Hip Hop” celebrity won’t be coming and going as he pleases: Harris will be shuttled in handcuffs between the Bergen County courthouse and the county jail, where he’s been held since his arrest last week on federal drug charges.
Opening arguments begin at 9:30 a.m. in Presiding Superior Court Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silebi’s courtroom in Hackensack.
- BREAKING NEWS: Jurors in Hackensack this afternoon acquitted VH1 “Love & Hip Hop” star Mendeecees Harris of sexually assaulting a teenager by coercing her with money and other manipulation in his Lodi home when she was 15. READ MORE….
Harris had been free on bail pending the start of the trial, but he surrendered in Bergen County last week after being named in a federal indictment out of Rochester, N.Y. that accuses him and two other men with trafficking $2.5 million worth of heroin and cocaine.
The government is expected to bring that case against him once the trial that begins tomorrow in Hackensack is over.
During a status conference last week, DeAvila-Silbebi asked Harris whether he’d accept a flat five-year prison sentence offered by prosecutors in exchange for a guilty plea.
He refused, setting the stage for the trial. Jury selection was completed last month, and both sides are ready to go.
Altogether, Harris is charged with seven counts of child abuse in connection with a sexual relationship prosecutors said he had in Lodi with a 15-year-old girl from his extended family two years ago. He’s also charged with promoting prostitution.
If convicted of the charges, he would face up to 20 years in prison.
He’ll be staying put throughout the trial: U.S. Marshals have placed a detainer on Harris in connection with last week’s federal charges, which apparently stem from a raid last summer at the home he shared with girlfriend Yandy Smith, a fellow promoter who brought him onto the “Love & Hip Hop” program.
VH1 last month dropped both Harris and Smith from the popular reality show.
The 5-foot-7-inch Harris, who fathered a child with Smith, owns Beat Factory studio in The Bronx and manages several New York City-based rappers, according to the biography.
Harris, who’s been characterized in unconfirmed media accounts as a former police informant, already has a drug conviction on his record that led to federal prison time and probation following a 2001 arrest.
MUGSHOT: Courtesy Bergen County Sheriff’s Office