Rapper 'Slick Rick' out of jail

— Rapper Ricky "Slick Rick" Walters said he still couldn't believe he was freed from jail Friday, more than 17 months after U.S. officials moved to deport the British-born music star and locked him up.

Walters boarded a plane at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, bound for New York and home to see his wife and two children. He told reporters his family was happy the ordeal was over.

"I still can't believe it to some degree," said Walters. "I'm just thankful to God.

Walters, 38, was cleared for release a week ago by U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood, who ruled that the Board of Immigration Appeals should never have reversed its earlier decision that Walters could stay in the United States despite a criminal conviction.

The rapper was detained in June 2002 as he returned to Florida after performing on a cruise ship for a week. His detainment came amid the immigration crackdown following the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We're happy that I'm able to stay in the country and put this behind us, finally, hopefully and go on with my life and resume my rap career," said Walters.

His attorney, Alex Solomiany, said no litigation was planned.

The Hip-Hop Hall of Famer was incarcerated in Bradenton, just south of Tampa. During the 17 months, comedian Chris Rock, actor Will Smith, record mogul Russell Simmons and the Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke out about his case.

Walters has lived in the United States since 1975. He is a legal resident but never became a citizen.

The INS had tagged Walters with a 1996 law calling for deportation of foreigners convicted of "aggravated felonies." Walters served five years in prison on a 1991 attempted murder conviction for shooting his cousin, who he said had extorted money and threatened his family.

After he was released from prison in 1996, Walters resettled in New York with his wife, son and daughter. He bought a pair of apartment buildings and resumed his music career.

Slick Rick's most notable work was his first full-length album, "The Great Adventures of Slick Rick," in 1988. It went platinum. Three other albums went gold.

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