In March 2019, Yonette “Star Brim” Respass was released from federal prison after serving more than six months for wire fraud. As the Brooklyn girl stepped off a Greyhound bus in Manhattan, she was greeted by a throng of emotional friends and family.
Respass’ most vocal supporter, hip-hop superstar Cardi B, wasn’t in attendance. But the 27-year-old rapper quickly took to Instagram to celebrate her best pal’s freedom.
“My girl is HOME @star_brim5 !!!!” an ecstatic Cardi posted. “Sooo happy!!”
With her famous friend calling major attention to her, Respass, 28, immediately reinvented herself as a social-media personality — with more than 949,000 followers on Instagram — and as a host of the popular Keepin’ It Bute podcast.
It seemed like the ultimate success story for the best friends: Two women who came from a rough-and-tumble gang life in the Bloods to achieve mainstream success.
“It looked like Star was changing her life,” an affiliate of Respass’ camp told The Post. “She started dealing less with that gangbanging stuff and using her experiences to teach people how not to get caught up.”
But the feel-good tale imploded two weeks ago when New York prosecutors alleged that Respass — who is nine months pregnant — was the “Godmother” behind a 2018 assault on two Queens bartenders: sisters Rachel and Sarah Wattley, aka Baddie and Jade Gi.
Respass is accused of ordering three gang subordinates, known as “drops,” to carry out an attack on the women while she was still in prison in Connecticut. According to court documents, Respass — said to be the highest-ranking female member of the 5-9 Brims, a sect of the nationwide Bloods gang — allegedly commanded younger 5-9 Brims to “pop that bottle” on the bartenders for showing disrespect to another member of the gang. She reportedly ordered: “I want hands put on them. I don’t even want no talking.”
Also charged is 35-year-old Jeffrey Bush, who allegedly filmed the beating on his cellphone. (He is currently in federal jail for selling crack to undercover cops.)
In all, 11 defendants associated with the 5-9 Brims were indicted in connection with the incident.
Purportedly unhappy that the first attack wasn’t extreme enough, Respass is charged with discussing a follow-up with associates. Two weeks after the initial assault, Cardi B — who accused Jade Gi of sleeping with her husband, Migos emcee Offset — was allegedly involved in a bottle-throwing brawl with the sisters at Angels strip club in Queens. Bush is claimed to have been the rapper’s “muscle” during that encounter.
Last June, Cardi pleaded not guilty to felony assault charges stemming from the club fight. The case is still pending.
Respass was also charged with orchestrating a separate August 2018 slashing of a woman at Angels and participating in a racketeering conspiracy. She now faces up to 50 years in federal prison. Feds have reportedly said she must turn herself in within a month of giving birth.
“Star and her gang are always itching for a fight,” said an insider. “She’s an OG. She’s really too old to be out here. There’s no excuse for you to be getting indicted for stuff like this.”
And getting mixed up with all this doesn’t look good for Cardi.
“Cardi no longer does gang s–t,” the insider said. “But even if she’s not active as a member, these people are still her friends.”
“When I was 16 years old, I used to hang out with a lot of Bloods,” Cardi B, who grew up in the Highbridge neighborhood of The Bronx, told GQ in 2018. “I used to pop off with my homies. And they’d say . . . ‘You should turn Blood.’ And I did.”
Respass has said on her podcast that she “turned” Blood at age 12. “I was going through a lot at home . . . I had a mom that was very alcoholic at the time and abusive. I just was always in the streets.”
The 5-9 Brims are associated with the Mac Baller Brims — which, a law enforcement source told The Post in 2014, were the “top dogs in the city,” with operations that include gun-running, robbery and kidnapping.
Most recently, several 5-9 Brim defendants have been accused of being involved with killing two men in The Bronx and the brazen daytime murder of a rival gang member in Brooklyn.
As reported in 2014, initiation rites range from being “jumped in” — enduring a group beating — to committing murder. According to a 2005 Post story, women joining the Bloods are sometimes required to “Bang-in,” or have sex with another member.
“If you come up in the Brims you are always fighting,” an insider whose sister came up in the Bloods with Cardi told The Post. “You come back home with black eyes.”
Cardi B has said she got out of the gang life after high school, when she realized it was a lifelong commitment.
“It’s almost like a fraternity, a sorority,” the rapper told GQ. “I [still] rep it, because I been repping it for such a long time.”
And, as the insider told The Post, “She still has friends like Star who are in her life.”
Respass can be seen backing up Cardi in an early video for her 2017 song “Red Barz.” Both are conspicuously dressed in the Bloods’ signature red hue. In January, the rapper was front and center at Respass’ baby shower, along with other famous guests including actress La La Anthony and rapper Remy Ma.
“Cardi no longer does gang s–t,” the insider said. “But even if she’s not active as a member, these people are still her friends.
“I feel like because [Cardi] comes from a different lifestyle — a lot of people don’t understand her, and they don’t see her pain,” Respass said of her relationship with the rapper on a 2019 episode of the Brilliant Idiots podcast. “I was there when she was crying . . . I was there when she didn’t have nothing.”
But the fact that Cardi now has a lot is exactly why she downplays her gang past.
“I wouldn’t want a young person, a young girl, to think it’s OK to join [a gang],” the rapper told GQ. But, she added, her reasoning is “not about violence” but rather about making it on your own: “It doesn’t make you money.”
“When I do interviews, I don’t talk about it, because I will lose my endorsements.”
Respass’ ardent supporters on social media have claimed that she has been unfairly targeted by authorities ever since she was released from prison. They point to the NYPD allegedly shutting down a back-to-school drive she organized in Brooklyn last August. (Cardi, who has 59 million Instagram followers, posted that police “scared off the principal.”)
But Prence James, founder of CrownedTVNews.com, which covers federal-court cases connected with the streets, says Respass has no one else to blame but herself for drawing attention to herself.
“She did an interview on the Brilliant Idiots podcast where she talked about kidnapping the 5-year-old [brother] of a rival gang member years ago just to jump him,” James told to The Post. “Star even proudly admitted that she was a boss in the Bloods gang. This indictment mirrors some of the things she has said in public.”
Meanwhile, although Cardi may not often discuss her gang past, she seemingly has no qualms still embracing at least some of her old lifestyle.
“She has to get to the point of letting some things fly,” a source told The Post in 2018. “She can’t fight everybody.”
But on Tuesday the rapper shared an eight-second snippet of a new song with the caption “Respect” on social media:
“Don’t get offended by rumors ’cause I done heard quite a few / You might have heard I love red, but I slap a bitch out the blue / Hell yeah.”
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