NEW YORK — Closing arguments began Monday in the trial of multimillionaire hip-hop mogul Sean “Puffy” Combs and two associates facing criminal charges stemming from a 1999 nightclub shooting that left three people wounded.
Combs, 31, one of the biggest names in rap music, has been on trial for seven weeks in Manhattan Supreme Court on charges of illegal gun possession and bribery. He denies any wrongdoing.
The case stems from a confused incident at Manhattan’s Club New York on Dec. 27, 1999. Prosecutors allege Combs jostled another patron, sparking a dispute in which his associate, rapper Jamaal “Shyne” Barrow, 21, opened fire in the crowded club.
Combs and his entourage, which included his now ex-girlfriend, actress-singer Jennifer Lopez, fled in a sport utility vehicle and were pursued by police through the streets of Manhattan. Police found a gun in the vehicle.
The lawyer defending Combs on Monday portrayed witnesses who testified against the rap mogul as liars hoping to profit from lawsuits they’ve filed against him.
“Bad people came into this courtroom and made bad accusations because they wanted to get rich,” said attorney Benjamin Brafman.Witnesses suing
Brafman noted that of the 50 witnesses who testified, only two said they saw a gun in Combs’ hand in the club. Both have sued Combs.
Brafman also said Wardell Fenderson, Combs’ former driver and a key prosecution witness, has sued Combs for $3 million.
“He doesn’t deserve a dime, and you can’t help him get it, because to do that, you’ve got to convict an innocent man on false evidence,” Brafman said.
Barrow is charged with attempted murder and assault. Combs, 31, and his bodyguard, Anthony “Wolf” Jones, 34, are charged with gun possession and bribery for allegedly trying to pay Fenderson to take the gun rap for Combs.
Barrow’s defense attorney was the first to deliver a closing argument in the case, telling the jury that his client indeed fired his gun in the air in the club but did so in self-defense.
Barrow’s attorney, Ian Niles, argued that his client fired his gun because he was being threatened by another man in the club, Matthew “Scar” Allen.
Barrow “is a talented young man with a bright future and trying to make a better life for his mother and grandmother,” the attorney said. “What happened that night in the club is a tragedy, but Jamaal is not guilty of this crime.”
What’s at stake
Combs, 31, whose business empire includes Bad Boy Records and the Sean John clothing line, faces a possible sentence of 15 years in prison if he is convicted of illegal gun possession.
Lopez was questioned by a grand jury but was not charged. Neither did she testify at the trial.
The jury of seven men and five women, which is expected to begin deliberations today, heard from 60 witnesses in the case.
During his March 1 testimony, Combs denied offering Fenderson money to claim the weapon and said he had done nothing wrong.
“I thought I was being shot at. My hands were up,” Combs testified. “I proceeded to go down, and everybody started falling all over each other.”
— From wire reports