In the mid-1990s, John Forte was a musical comer, writing, performing and producing tracks on the Fugees' Grammy-winning album, "The Score," as well as Wyclef Jean's solo album "The Carnival." He rapped on a Michael Jackson CD and produced music for Public Enemy. Several times, he visited Simon's farm, where he and Ben sang backup vocals for Carly's album "The Bedroom Tapes." He also sang backup on her tour. In 1999, he recorded his first album, "Poly Sci." When it failed to sell, he was dropped by Columbia Records. He needed money.
And that is where his real troubles began. An acquaintance in a club where he was an occasional D.J. asked him to recruit two women to transport a package for him; in turn, Forte - who says he thought the package contained money - would be paid. In July 2000, the women were busted at the Houston airport with 30 pounds, or 13.6 kilograms, of liquid cocaine.
They led the police to Forte, who adamantly maintained his innocence, turning down a plea bargain because he felt certain he could win at trial, which took place in September 2001.
Forte was acquitted of conspiracy but convicted of drug trafficking. Under mandatory minimums, he received a 14-year sentence. He was 26 years old.