By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer
At the end of 2012, Sharpsville native and rapper Justin L. Dunlap, 22, seemed to be on top of the world.
He co-owned a car-detailing business and was trying to build a name for himself in the music world as the “positive rapper,” known for using no profanity in his lyrics.
The release of his new CD and a professionally produced video of his first single got him noticed by a music producer in Pittsburgh.
She booked him a gig there in December as the opening act for a well-known rapper.
Dunlap’s world came crashing down when he was arrested in January.
Police were called to the Hermitage townhouse he shared with his business partner, Mike McKelvey. Dunlap yelled a series of bizarre statements, pulled a shotgun, and fought with police as they tried to grab it from him, they said.
Dunlap skirted jail Tuesday when Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher St. John sentenced him to 1 year of probation on charges of simple assault and resisting arrest.
St. John said he remembered when Dunlap entered his Alford plea, he said he had smoked marijuana laced with bath salts.
“I don’t remember anything from that night,” Dunlap told The Herald. “The drug really messed me up.”
An Alford plea typically is entered when a defendant doesn’t remember the incident; for sentencing purposes, it is a guilty plea.
“This is your first arrest ever, and you almost got yourself killed,” St. John told Dunlap. “You had a pretty decent childhood until 13.”
The judge discussed key events in Dunlap’s life starting at age 13 when he became homeless and was taken in by his coach.
With his coach’s help, Dunlap attended the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio, and returned home after a year.
“I felt like I had bigger and better things to do with my life,” Dunlap told the judge.
Dunlap answered “Yes, sir” and “No, sir” except when asked about his new job.
Dunlap said he moved to Virginia to stay with his cousin shortly after the incident and is working at Shore Drive Auto World in Virginia Beach.
He told St. John that he works full time selling used automobiles, whatever kind the judge wanted.
In addition to probation, St. John gave Dunlap credit for 18 days served in Mercer County Jail, ordered Dunlap to pay court costs and to “never try to sell me a car again.”
“I still love my music but I want to stabilize myself as a man first,” Dunlap told The Herald.
He said he is still pursuing his music career as the “positive rapper,” using profanity-free lyrics.
“I don’t allow my being incarcerated and going through court and everything else affect me,” Dunlap said. “I can’t be upset with a decision that I made – the decision to smoke marijuana.”
McKelvey, Dunlap’s roommate, has a case pending on drug charges.