In May 2007, Arioose and an unnamed juvenile wearing mask allegedly entered a
small convenient store in Elizabeth, New Jersey and robbed the Haitian store owner
(Fan-Fan) at gunpoint. The two juveniles then fled and were later apprehended by
Elizabeth police and charged with a first-degree armed robbery.
This was not Arioose’s first charge or first time arrested. In fact, he had several
open cases involving drug dealing, resisting arrests, and assaults before Union
County Juvenile Judge, the Honorable Frederic R. McDaniel. Notwithstanding those
other cases, this first-degree robbery charge was the most serious charge Arioose
faced and which later would change his life for good.
Due to Arioose’s continued criminal episodes and the violent nature of the robbery
offense, the Union County prosecutor’s office elected to waive Arioose to adult court
to be prosecuted and treated as adult offender despite the fact that he was a juvenile
at the time of the incident. Arioose, represented by criminal defense attorney
Karam Nahas, was able to defeat the waiver and remain within the jurisdiction of
the juvenile criminal justice system. At that time, Nahas had other violent clients
who were waived by the Court and treated as adults despite being juveniles. If
the prosecution’s waiver was successful, Arioose would have been exposed to a
maximum sentence of twenty (20) years in an adult prison for the crime he would
later be convicted of.
Prior to trial for the first-degree robbery, Nahas was able to negotiate a plea offer
with the Union County Prosecutor who agreed to mitigate Arioose’s charge and
recommend a probationary sentence should Arioose provide information to the
prosecutor to incriminate his co-defendant. Despite his counsel’s efforts, Arioose
refused to cooperate with the prosecution, remained silent, and stood trial in
July 2007 for a first-degree armed robbery before the same Judge McDaniel who
adjudicated his past cases and came to know Arioose too well.
At trial, the victim of the armed robbery Fan-Fan testified against Arioose and his
co-defendant who at that time was on the run. Fan-Fan testified that he was robbed
at gunpoint and by a knife while at his store by Arioose and the other juvenile.
Arioose was later convicted of the charge and sentenced to three years in the
juvenile prison of New Jersey.
During his incarceration, Arioose reached out to Nahas explaining to him that he
wanted to change his life and become a professional music artist. Nahas took a
liking to the talented young convict after hearing his first demo CD recorded in
prison. At that time, Nahas agreed to help Arioose change his life and pursue a
career in music upon his release only if Arioose promised to change his mind set and
begin a productive personal and professional career.
Upon Arioose’s release from prison, Nahas traveled with Arioose to Miami where
they recorded the first unreleased tracks outside of prison at Studio Center in Miami
Lakes. Arioose worked with music engineers Drop and Manny Mercado. Studio
Center has recorded such artists as Flo-rida, Black DADA, Raekwon, Capone-N-
Noreaga, Shakira, Ricky Martin, Juvenile and works with recording labels such as
Sony/BMG, Warner Bros., Atlantic, Jive, Universal and Def Jam.
Returning from Miami, Nahas contacted famed photographer Tom Medvedich to
conduct a photo shoot with Arioose in his neighborhood of Elizabeth and in front
of the store he robbed. Tom Medvedich has photographed for the Source, XXL, and
Spin magazine and has shot other artists such as Rick Ross, Pharrell, Jay Z, Raekwon
and Spike Lee to name a few.
After explaining to Medvedich the story behind the robbery, Medvedich decided
to shoot Arioose in front of Fan-Fan’s convenient store – the store that Arioose
had robbed nearly four years ago at that time. During the shoot, the place that
previously was a convenient store was now closed and apparently out of business.
As Medvedich shot Arioose in front of the store, an older man appeared and
curiously walked towards the store.
Nahas immediately recognized the man to be Fan-Fan, Arioose’s robbery victim who
appeared to be older and weathered from the hardships of life. At that point, Nahas
and Arioose approached Fan-Fan who also immediately recognized the criminal
defense attorney who cross-examined him as well as the suspect who attempted to
rob him as juvenile.
For Arioose and his team, that day was a very special moment. Arioose was able to
apologize and reconcile with the man he robbed and traumatized. Interestingly, a
man that could very easily have been Arioose’s father, as both Fan-Fan and Arioose
are Haitians and slightly resemble one another. Arioose, Nahas and Fan-Fan spoke
for some time as Arioose explained to Fan-Fan what he’s accomplished since prison
and how he is now pursuing a career in music. Fan-Fan hugged Arioose and shook
his hands commending him for his positive actions and was visibly happy to see
that Arioose had changed his life from a negative to a positive. Fan-Fan pledged his
support and encouragement towards Arioose and formally forgave him for his past.
The appearance of Fan-Fan at the photo shoot was symbolic of Arioose’s world
coming back full circle and was unplanned or premeditated. Five years had elapsed
since Arioose had allegedly stuck a gun in Fan-Fan’s face and since that time, both
Fan-Fan and Arioose moved on but never had forgotten.
When Arioose was asked about the impact of seeing Fan-Fan outside of the
courtroom, Arioose replied, “It was a life-changing moment for me. I was blessed
to have the opportunity to confront Fan-Fan outside of the courtroom, man to man,
and understand who he was as a person. To shake his hand and understand that I
now have his support was a way for me to put closure to my past and move forward
with a fresh slate.”
When Nahas was asked about how he felt seeing the victim that he questioned in
Court years ago, Nahas explained, “In our business, we rarely see a positive outcome
from a negative event. Personally, it was good to see Fan-Fan after all these years on
non-adversarial terms. I aggressively cross-examined him during a heated trial and
he did not take it personally. He understood that it’s the nature of our business. For
Fan-Fan to forgive Arioose and support his second chance at life despite what he’s
done speaks volumes as to Fan-Fan’s noble character.”
All these events are true and all the people involved in this article, even the Union
County prosecutor who brought Arioose to trial, continue to encourage Arioose’s
development as a professional music artist.