August 18, 2004 02:00 PM

In a major legal victory for Russell Simmons, a New York state judge ruled Wednesday that the hip-hop mogul and former NAACP head Benjamin Chavis will not be penalized for their roles in a June 4, 2003, rally against New York’s harsh drug laws.

It wasn’t their political stance that initially sparked the case, but a legal question over to whether what they did constituted lobbying, which is governed by strict state ordinances.

Simmons, founder of Def Jam records and head of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, and Chavis were found not to be in violation of them, the Associated Press reports.

The two had argued that they were simply exercising their right to free speech.

In suing the state’s lobbying commission, Simmons and Chavis claimed that commissioners determine guilt and levy penalties without giving defendants their due process of law.

Judge Bernard Malone agreed, ruling that two sections of the Lobbying Act violate rights by failing to give notice or a hearing prior to deciding penalties.

“We are extremely pleased,” said James Featherstonhaugh, Simmons’s attorney.

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