Brandon Duncan, known as "Tiny Doo," and 14 co-defendants are charged in the case involving nine local shootings between May 2013 and February 2014. Prosecutors say the 33-year-old rapper profited from violence through his music. He says he's just an artist making music.
He and several other defendants are in court under a law that allows for the prosecution of gang members if they benefit from or promote crimes committed by fellow gangsters.
Superior Court Judge David Gill recently dismissed charges against some of the defendants, saying prosecutors didn't present enough evidence to prove that those defendants willfully benefited from the violent crimes alleged. Other defendants, who were split into a different group -- including Duncan -- were bound over for trial.
Duncan, also known as Tiny Doo, has been making rap music since he was 14 and has worked with such artists as Lil' Wayne.
Before another hearing last month, about 75 community members rallied in front of the San Diego County Courthouse to show support for men they said are being prosecuted for crimes they didn't commit.
"If the District Attorney wins this case, and I am convicted of crimes I didn't commit or have any knowledge of, not only will my life change forever, but so may the lives of every young person who had been wrongly documented as a member of a gang,'' said one of the defendants in the case, Aaron Harvey.
A statement released by the Black Student Justice Coalition and other community groups alleges the charges against Harvey and others are part of an attack on men of color by law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
In a statement issued in December, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said that case was not about punishing someone for rapping, but is about "protecting our neighborhoods by taking violent gang members off the streets and holding them accountable for the crimes they commit using a law that the voters passed and the court recognized as constitutional.''