Jelly Roll's Life of Crime Started with an Armed Robbery That Involved Weed

Jelly Roll at Senate hearing on Jan. 11 (image via

According to People magazine, "The musician born Jason Bradley DeFord has been to jail about 40 times for various drug charges." DeFord is country singer Jelly Roll. The article notes:

"He was arrested for the first time at age 14, two years before he was arrested for aggravated robbery, charged as an adult and served over a year in prison – plus seven years' probation."

Born Dec. 4, 1984, DeFord grew up in Antioch, a suburb of Nashville. The New York Times adds:

"His father was a meat salesman with a side hustle as a bookie, while his mother struggled with her mental health and addiction. He was first arrested when he was 14 and spent the next decade in and out of juvenile centers and prison for charges including aggravated robbery and possession with intent to sell."

USA Today reports:

"His first arrest as an adult came when he was 18, on an aggravated robbery charge in Nashville in March 2002. Court records show one other defendant was charged in the case, and prosecutors formally charged Jelly Roll with two counts of aggravated robbery.

"He pleaded guilty to a lesser felony robbery charges in the case that same year, records show, and was sentenced to eight years in prison and seven years of probation.

"He was released early from the Tennessee Department of Corrections and in April 2008 was arrested again for violating the Drug-Free School Zone Act. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of possession with intent to sell cocaine that same year and was sentenced to eight years in prison again and another eight years of probation."

"Specifics of the crimes were not immediately available, but prison records show his probation ended Dec. 16, 2016."

In 2023, Jelly Roll told Joe Rogan “we robbed a couple of guys for some weed" when he was 15 in 1999. "It was a heinous crime, admittedly... It was an armed robbery. We went in there with a gun. I regret it every day of my life. I've carried that inexpugnable felony for 20-something years."

In 2007, he was jailed for drug dealing. After the birth of his daughter the next year, Jelly Roll was "transferred from the violent offenders’ unit to the education unit and began studying for his GED, passing the test on his first attempt." He and his wife Bunnie married in 2016.

Earlier this year, Jelly Roll visited his former jail cell at the Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility in Nashville, where he told CBS News Sunday Morning:

"There was a time in my life where I truly thought this was it. And then, coming here after being nominated for two Grammys just hits different. I wrote hundreds of songs right here. I wrote [the 2010 song] ‘Ridin’ All Alone’ chorus right here.”

Jelly Roll received Grammy nominations for Best New Artist and Best Country Duo/Group Performance in 2024.

It's been a busy year for the husky, heavily-tattooed singer. In January, he testified at a Congressional hearing about fentanyl:

"I was a part of the problem. I'm here now, standing as a man that wants to be a part of the solution. I brought my community down. I hurt people. I was the uneducated man in the kitchen playing chemist with drugs I knew absolutely nothing about, just like these drug dealers are doing right now when they're mixing every drug on the market with fentanyl and they're killing the people we love."

Last week, in an interview with Taste of Country, Jelly Roll commented:

"I believe marijuana has helped me in so many regards, with my anxiety. This is a hot button topic, but, truly, marijuana has kept me sober... I think a world without weed, Jelly Roll's drinking codeine and popping Xanax and snorting cocaine again, but a world with weed, I'll be alright."



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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.