Bad Rap

Is Joshua Moore serving a 12-year sentence because of his taste in music?

Under the driver's seat, police found a plastic replica of a .45 automatic handgun belonging to Moore's friend Gary Johnson.

That discovery would come back to haunt Moore, who knew he faced an uphill battle in convincing police that he had no idea his two passengers intended to rob anyone when he gave them a ride. But he had no way of knowing what would happen just two months later, when Fullerton police arrested him again—this time in connection with the Aug. 29 armed robbery of the Fullerton video store.

Although Moore drove a Geo Prism—a fairly common vehicle—police never found any direct physical evidence linking him to the video-store rip-off. Only one witness saw the vehicle. Sonja McCarty told police the car had four doors; Moore's only had two. Furthermore, she told police, the white suspect was a "big, redheaded guy," according to her interview with a private investigator working on Moore's case. While he seemed to partially fit the victim's description—a heavyset, white male in his 20s—a Fullerton police report shows that the victim, a Korean-American clerk named MikeAnn Kim, also described the handgun-carrying, white suspect as having "light brown" or "blond" hair. Moore's Fullerton-police booking photo shows he had dark brown hair.

That report also shows that the investigating officer wrote "none seen" in the space provided for a suspect's facial characteristics. Yet Kim somehow later managed to identify Moore in a photo lineup of six individuals. It wasn't as hard as it sounds: Kim had every reason to believe that one of the six faces belonged to the suspect, and a copy of the lineup shows that only one of those faces—that of Moore himself—appears to remotely match the victim's description of a young, heavyset Caucasian male; the other photographs were of darker-skinned Latino males, or men who were thinner and older Caucasians. In contrast, Kim was unable to identify Charles Gilbert, whom police suspected was Moore's accomplice, out of a photo lineup of 12 men—all of them black males of roughly the same age and physical build.

Based on Kim's photo identification of Moore, police searched his parents' Torrance home. Inside Moore's bedroom, Detective Linda King found several blue polo T-shirts and black wool baseball caps—common articles of clothing that matched the clerk's description of the white suspect's clothing. But police never found any Levi's shorts in the house, and Moore claims he has never owned a pair. Neither did police locate any weapons or stolen property.

But King found something else: evidence that Moore listened to gangster rap. "In searching Joshua's desk, I found several pieces of paper torn out of notebooks," King wrote in her report. "The paper contained rap songs describing drive-by shootings and .45-caliber weapons. The writings related to FCP or Westside First Class Players, with monikers of G-Bone, Manic and Big J-Mo. Some of the notebooks and writings were collected."

The Weekly was able to examine this evidence in greater detail at the exhibit room of the Orange County Superior Courthouse in Santa Ana. Scrawled throughout the paperwork is Moore's rap nickname, "Big J-Mo," along with "G-Bone," Moore's high school friend and fellow rapper Gary Johnson. One of the papers appears to be a song list for Moore and Johnson's rap duo, FCP, a name that constantly appears in Moore's rap lyrics. The list includes about 29 songs with titles such as "True Playa," "From the Westside (Featuring G-Bone)" and "Treacherous Game."

Apparently because of their violent content, police seized as evidence lyrics to three songs: "FCP," "Come Correct" and "I'm Ready for War." All three describe violent acts with rhymes that seem lifted from gangster rap artists like Ice Cube and Dr. Dre—for example, "I'll blow up yo home to your dome with my chrome." Police and prosecutors would later make much of the fact that "I'm Ready for War" kicks off with a line that involves a .45-caliber handgun, the weapon allegedly used in the Fullerton video-store heist. "None will survive when I got the .45," the song begins. "They wonder why I ride because I'm from the Westside."

Having seized these lyrics as evidence, Fullerton police then searched Moore's 1997 Geo Prism. King and her partner "located the registration and several photographs," her report says. "One of the photographs depicted was [sic] a white arm holding an automatic handgun and pointing it at another male sleeping in a car. Based on my investigation to this point, Joshua Moore was arrested for suspicion of armed robbery. He was transported to the Fullerton Police Department."

Once at the station, police asked Moore if he had ever held a gun. "Moore admitted that he had held a real gun several years ago," King wrote. "I questioned him about more recent times and he admitted that he had held a fake one for some photos in 1997 or 1998." As it turns out, Moore was talking about Gary Johnson's BB gun, the same plastic replica of a .45-caliber pistol found under Moore's driver's seat by Orange police in August.

Moore told King that the sleeping person in the photograph was his friend Gary Johnson, a.k.a. G-Bone. "Moore said he and several of his friends took pictures holding the fake .45 auto-matic," the report states. "Moore kept telling me it was just a joke."

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