So Solid Crew founder cleared of gun murder

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The Independent Online

The founder of the controversial rap collective So Solid Crew wept and buried his head in his hands, a "broken man", as he was cleared of murder yesterday.

Dwayne Vincent, known as Megaman, was acquitted of encouraging his friend Carl Morgan to shoot Colin Scarlett. The 24-year-old was gunned down in a south London street after he humiliated and "dissed'' Morgan ­ another member of the rap collective ­ by beating him up.

Last year as Morgan was convicted of the murder and jailed for life, the Common Serjeant of London Judge Brian Baker said: ''Gun use is the scourge of our streets and causes misery and distress. The message must be all one way, that it will not be tolerated."

During his trial at the Old Bailey, Mr Vincent, 27, of Barons Court, west London, insisted that suggestions he had encouraged his friend were ridiculous, adding: "Why would I want to go into music and make something for myself and still be a violent character on the streets? It doesn't make sense."

The original jury that convicted Morgan could not agree a verdict on Mr Vincent and a later retrial was aborted. Yesterday as the jury in the third trial returned its verdict of not guilty after two days of deliberation, a cheer went up in the public gallery. The So Solid Crew leader, who has two children and has previously condemned gun crime despite his group's violent lyrics, clasped his hands together and thanked the jurors.

Later he said: "I feel like a broken man... I was an innocent man from the beginning ­ nothing has changed and nothing will ever change."

He added: "I now just want my name and my business career to be clear of the theory which has falsely been created that I encourage and support any kind of gun violence."

His solicitor, Mike Schwartz, added it should serve as a "wake-up call" to the Metropolitan Police's Operation Trident ­ which targets black-on-black crime ­ insisting the case had highlighted systematic concerns in the way they dealt with such cases.

"We have already lodged complaints with the Director of Prosecutions and Independent Police Complaints Commission. No one should have to go through again what Dwayne Vincent has had to endure."

Mr Vincent had denied murdering Mr Scarlett on 6 November, 2004.

The prosecution had alleged Mr Scarlett's shooting resulted from a trivial domestic love feud that spiralled within hours into an armed confrontation.

Mr Scarlett was shot four times outside his home in Tooting by Morgan. There had been a stand-off between two groups "more reminiscent of the Wild West than south-west London".

Mr Vincent had spent more than a year in jail before he was bailed after the second trial was abandoned.

During Mr Vincent's second trial, Witness A retracted his statement in which he alleged that Mr Vincent ordered his friend, Morgan, to "burst him".

Witness A said he had tried to withdraw his statement earlier but was faced with police opposition.

He said: "I said to an officer in the beginning that it was not Megaman who said 'burst him'." He said his exact words to the officer were that "someone said 'burst him'". "But on my statement it says Megaman said 'burst him'," he said.

So Solid Crew broke into the British music scene in 2000, scoring a number one hit with "21 Seconds" in 2001. Despite disputing their support for violence, there have been gun fights at So Solid Crew gigs, including a fatal shooting in Luton.

Collective stories

Lisa Maffia

Often described as the leading lady of So Solid Crew, she has had her own success with two singles reaching the top 10. She released a solo album, All Over, in 2003. and co-founded the Maffia Recordz label last year. Has done modelling and television work.

G Man

Jason "G-Man" Phillips, Maffia's former fiancé, was jailed for four years in 2003 after being found guilty of possessing a loaded handgun. Phillips, who wrote the hit 21 Seconds, dumped the gun as police chased him from a suspected drugs deal in London's West End.

Romeo

Real name Marvin Dawkins, the former So Solid Crew star was cleared last year of attacking a fellow clubber in a car park. Dawkins and a friend were accused of attacking Ejay Armstrong in 2004.

Oxide and Neutrino

Before success with So Solid, Oxide and partner Neutrino (Mark Oseitutu) had already scored a No 1 hit single of their own ("Casualty"), and a platinum album (Execute) that spawned three further hits. In May 2001, Neutrino was mugged and shot outside a London nightclub, then arrested on firearms charges himself. However, the charges were later dropped.

Asher D

Real name Ashley Walters, he was sentenced to 18 months in a young offenders' institution for possessing an illegal firearm ­ was released in 2002. Now plans a duet with rapper 50 Cent and is in Stormbreaker with Ewan McGregor. In 2002 he took the lead role in a film about UK gun culture " to warn fans of its dangers".