Hip-hop mogul calls case 'a life-changing experience'

NEW YORK — Sean “Puffy” Combs says the trial that ended with his acquittal on gun and bribery charges changed him.

“I’ve changed, I’ve matured,” the hip-hop mogul told Time magazine. “This whole thing has made me deeper. It’s not what it was about before … I want to sit down and think about it and try and understand it on an intellectual level.”

A jury Friday acquitted Combs and his bodyguard, Anthony “Wolf” Jones, of gun possession and bribery charges stemming from the Dec. 27, 1999, shooting inside Club New York in which three people were injured.

Rapper Jamaal “Shyne” Barrow, a Combs protege who admitted firing a gun inside the nightclub near Times Square, was convicted of assault, reckless endangerment and weapons charges. He faces up to 25 years in prison.

In an interview published in Sunday’s Newsday, Combs said the trial had been “a life-changing experience. I’m going to be taking some time off to make sure I evaluate everything and get my priorities straight. I have to see what’s important: my family, my children, my faith in God.”

He said the ordeal had upset his children — Christian, 2; Justin, 7; and stepson Quincy, 10 — “because kids were talking about it at school.”

Combs credited God, his lawyers Johnnie Cochran and Benjamin Brafman and the jury for his victory.

Combs is being sued by the three people who were shot in the club; by his driver Wardel Fenderson, who claimed Combs tried to bribe him to take the gun charge and seeks $3 million for emotional distress; and by the owner of Club New York, who claims his business was harmed by the shooting.

Luke Pittoni, the lawyer who is defending Combs against the civil lawsuits, said Sunday in a telephone interview with the Associated Press that he will seek to have the suits dismissed in the wake of the acquittal.

He noted that the money sought from Combs is not directly related to the criminal trial, but Pittoni said he believes the acquittal could “discourage (those suing) from continuing the lawsuit.”

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