A convicted felon and alleged gang member pleaded not guilty Wednesday morning to charges of illegally possessing a firearm and gang enhancements after filming a rap music video in which he allegedly handled a gun on camera, San Mateo County prosecutors said.
Dellory Marzell Crooks, a 27-year-old resident of East Palo Alto, was arrested on an outstanding warrant Tuesday night in Menlo Park.
The warrant stems from a 2014 music video showing Crooks and four accomplices, all of whom are convicted felons and alleged members of an East Palo Alto gang, handling several firearms which investigators determined were real guns, prosecutors said.
Investigators discovered the video while sifting through voluminous social media, which included videos from Facebook and YouTube, in search of evidence in the Operation Sunny Day case. Prosecutors charged 16 people for crimes that included multiple murders alleged to be connected with gangs. A witness in the Sunny Day case was questioned about the video and was later found to be the alleged person behind the camera, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.
The video allegedly shows five people singing, dancing and pointing firearms at the camera. As felons, the individuals are prohibited from possessing firearms.
Crooks has two prior felony "strike" convictions for a 2010 robbery in Sacramento County and a 2013 residential burglary in San Mateo County. Wagstaffe said Crooks was sent to prison for two years in January 2013. Other cases in 2011 included possession of cocaine for sale and possession of stolen property. For Crooks, this is a third-strike case.
Wagstaffe said that prosecutors decided to pursue the case based on a similar investigation in Monterey County. Prosecutors in that case successfully prosecuted felons who had displayed weapons that proved to be real guns in a video.
At his arraignment on Wednesday, Crooks made a statement in which he questioned facing a three-strike case "for singing on video," Wagstaffe said. He added that Crooks's "singing isn't that bad," but that he was being charged for "what he had in his hand."
Crooks is being represented by the San Mateo County Private Defender Program. He returns to court on Oct. 30 for a preliminary hearing and remains in custody on $600,000 bail.
Update on Oct. 24, 2017: Two other people allegedly connected to the video are are also in custody. Marcel Dandre Rutherford-Chew, 23, of East Palo Alto, and Luis Javier Mariscal, 32, of Fremont, are being held on $100,000 bail each. Rutherford-Chew pleaded not guilty on Oct. 25; All three men are scheduled to appear Oct. 30 for preliminary hearings.