Former rap mogul Suge Knight appeared in a downtown courtroom Monday with a new lawyer defending him against charges that he threatened the director of the movie “Straight Outta Compton.”
Attorney Dominique Banos is taking over for Matthew Fletcher, who has been accused by prosecutors of helping Knight try to bribe potential witnesses in a separate murder case.
Superior Court Judge Scott M. Gordon did not rule on the prosecution’s motion to appoint a special advisory counsel in light of Fletcher’s alleged misconduct, saying the issue was now moot given that Fletcher had been replaced.
Banos told the court that she had no professional or personal relationship with Fletcher and said she wanted to get her hands on discovery in the criminal threats case as soon as possible.
Knight spoke to Banos at the side of the courtroom, telling her to ask the judge to let him to make phone calls from jail and have visitors.
Gordon said that decision would have to be made by another judge.
Knight has two other cases pending. He is charged with murder, attempted murder and hit-and-run for allegedly using a pickup truck to run down two men in the parking lot of Tam’s Burgers in the 1200 block of West Rosecrans Avenue on Jan. 29, 2015. Terry Carter died, and Cle “Bone” Sloan survived his injuries.
Knight is also charged with stealing a camera from a female paparazzo in September 2014. Co-defendant comedian Micah “Katt” Williams pleaded no contest earlier this year in exchange for probation in that case.
A pretrial hearing on the criminal threats charges was set for Oct. 3.
Knight has had a series of at least seven different lawyers defending him in the three cases.
Fletcher, who was not in the courtroom with Bates and was said to be appearing in federal court, has denied any wrongdoing. He had already been replaced by other counsel in the murder case when the prosecutor’s filed their motion in August.
Prosecutors allege that Fletcher was involved in helping Knight sell a video of Carter’s killing and detailed text messages sent by Knight’s fiance, Toi-Lin Kelly. Kelly allegedly negotiated with the celebrity-news website TMZ and agreed to sell the video for $55,000.
The allegations against Fletcher could lead to criminal charges against him, according to prosecutors.
“Evidence of Fletcher’s potential criminal conduct, including his effort to assist in the sale of the video along with his efforts to bribe witnesses, suborn perjury, etc., will no doubt surface in the murder case,” prosecutors contend in the motion.
Calls made by Knight from jail were recorded under a court order. Although the order did not allow monitoring of private discussions between Knight and his attorney, it stated that if Knight calls a third party and that person adds the defense attorney via conference call, “then defendant has broken the applicable attorney-client privilege, and the People are free to monitor the call.”
A recording of a March 2015 call between Knight, his friend and business partner Mark Blankenship and Fletcher lays out what prosecutors allege is Knight planning to bribe witnesses.
“I’ll pay anything … if we can get these three, this is heaven to me, if we can get the two or three versions from the bikers on tape and we can get … we’re done. It’s going home time,” Knight says, according to the motion. “Right? That’s a fair (expletive) investment, you know, 20, 25 thousand dollars to pay to these (expletives) to get home?”
Prosecutors allege Knight’s plan was to have the witnesses testify that the victims had guns at Tam’s, bolstering a self-defense claim.
Fletcher told the New York Daily News, “I’ve never paid anyone, period, end of story.” The defense attorney also told the newspaper he didn’t know of any witnesses being paid and didn’t believe Knight had the cash to pay anyone.
The prosecution’s motion acknowledges that during the March 2015 call, Blankenship “clarified with the defendant that the witnesses being discussed would be procured by `legitimate’ means and that they would just `tell the truth,”‘ a position repeated by Blankenship on other calls.
–City News Service