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    MIA T.I. Upstages BETs

    The King of the South has been temporarily dethroned...though that may be the least of his worries.

    T.I. remains jailed after being arrested on several weapons-related charges Saturday, just hours before he was set to take the stage and, ultimately, win two pieces of hardware at the BET Hip-Hop Awards.

    The 27-year-old rapper, whose real name is Clifford Harris, briefly appeared Monday in court, where prosecutors expressed a desire to keep him in custody on the weapons charges indefinitely while the case proceeds. But his attorneys, who claim T.I. is an innocent victim of the government's rush to justice, will argue for his release at a bond hearing scheduled to take place this Friday.

    The double Grammy winner was busted in the parking lot of a shopping center not far from the awards show's Atlanta venue, collared by agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after picking up three machine guns, two silencers and a pistol from an undercover ATF officer, which, per the feds, his bodyguard had purchased on his behalf.

    T.I. was previously convicted on drug violations back in 1998 and given seven years' probation,  and he later was busted on gun-related charges. It's a federal offense for a convicted felon to have someone purchase firearms on their behalf.

    "The last place machine guns should be is in the hands of a convicted felon, who cannot legally possess any kind of firearm," said David E. Nahmias, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. "This convicted felon allegedly was trying to add several machine guns to an already large and entirely illegal arsenal of guns.

    "Thanks to the good and quick work of ATF, he is now in custody, and his firearms have been seized."

    The Atlanta native, who was up for a leading nine awards from the hip-hop ceremony Saturday, was arrested as the result of a nearly two-week undercover operation that began on Oct. 2, when ATF agents learned an individual later identified as the rapper's bodyguard was seeking to buy guns without registering them.

    Last Wednesday, the bodyguard was arrested after picking up $12,000 from a bank and attempting to fork it over for three machine guns, two silencers and a pistol, the same arsenal T.I. was attempting to pick up on Saturday afternoon. After getting caught, the bodyguard agreed to cooperate with authorities in their sting.

    The bodyguard phoned T.I., a conversation that ATF officials recorded, and arranged for the rapper to pick up the guns himself over the weekend. He was arrested in the shopping center's parking lot without incident.

    Following the arrest, ATF agents searched T.I.'s nearby College Park home and allegedly discovered six additional firearms, five of them loaded, in a bedroom closet. Three more guns, one of which was loaded, were found in the vehicle the rapper was driving that day. It's unclear if any of those guns had been registered.

    Prosectuors say the chart-topping T.I. vs. T.I.P. rapper "now faces serious federal charges and a potentially long prison sentence.

    But one of his legal crew says authorities were too quick to point the finger at his client.

    Attorney Dwight Thomas said "a number of people" live in the home ATF searched on Saturday and that there were "two sides to every story—sometimes three."

    The main story at the BETs, however, was the notable absence of the rapper, whose presence, in spirit, was nonetheless acknowledged.

    Common, who wound up sharing the CD of the Year award with his beleaguered colleague, offered some support in his acceptance speech.

    "I salute my guy T.I., who also won, wherever he is," Common said from the podium.

    Wyclef Jean, who was due to perform alongside T.I. on the rapper's hit "You Know What It Is," instead went solo...almost. Doing his best to fill in and earn a few laughs, host Katt Williams got all dolled up in his most believable T.I. gear and took to the stage during the song, attempting to impersonate the MIA rapper.

    The chart-topping rapper's absence was also felt during another would-be performance, this time with Alfamega and Busta Rhymes for "Hurt," in which T.I. would have joined them.

    But the rapper's absence wasn't the only anomaly of the evening.

    The poster child of healthy egos, Kanye West, was on hand to collect the evening's award for Best Hip-Hop Video, only to become momentarily humbled by the honor.

    "I didn't deserve this award above them," he said, referring to UGK featuring OutKast's "International Players," one of the category's fellow nominees. West then handed the trophy over to OutKast's Big Boi, who quickly gave it back.

    "You worked too hard for this," he told West. "No, you deserve it."

    West, Common and T.I. each took home a leading two awards from the show.

    An edited version of the ceremony will air this Wednesday on BET.

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