Jury Begins Deliberations in Puffy Combs's Case

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Postby pinkGLAM » Wed Mar 14, 2001 5:26 pm

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sean 'Puffy' Combs was nervous but confident on Wednesday as a jury began deliberating bribery and gun possession charges against the music mogul in a case stemming from a 1999 nightclub shooting, his attorney said.

Combs, one of the biggest names in rap and hip hop music, could face as much as 15 years in prison if convicted by the panel, which started deliberations at noon EST.

The shooting occurred on Dec. 27, 1999, at the crowded Club New York where, prosecutors say, Combs jostled another patron and sparked a dispute that prompted his associate Jamaal 'Shyne' Barrow, a 21-year-old rapper, to open fire.

Combs and his entourage, including actress-singer Jennifer Lopez, fled in a vehicle that police stopped after a chase of several blocks. They found a gun in the car, and Combs is accused of trying to bribe his driver to claim ownership of the weapon.

Speaking outside the courtroom on Wednesday for this first time after a gag order was lifted in the case, defense attorney Benjamin Brafman expressed confidence that his famous client would be cleared of the charges.

'If you're asking me is he nervous? Absolutely, yeah,' Brafman said. 'If you're asking me is he confident, he's confident.

'He is innocent. He wants to get this over with quickly,' he said.


Judge Charles Solomon imposed the gag order on everyone involved in the case when testimony began in late January, lifting it once the jury was sequestered for deliberations.

In closing arguments on Monday, defense attorneys for Combs and his bodyguard, Anthony 'Wolf' Jones, who also faces charges of bribery and illegal gun possession, argued the entertainer was the victim of people seeking to profit from his fame and fortune.

Damages sought in various lawsuits against Combs stemming from the incident total more than $1 billion.

All three of the wounded have filed suit. They are Natanya Reubens, 30, who has seven lead fragments lodged in her head; Robert Thompson, 39, hit by a bullet in the right shoulder; and Julius Jones, 27, also shot in the right shoulder.

Prosecutors say three guns were involved -- an illegal 9mm handgun belonging to Barrow, the gun found in the getaway car and a gun recovered after police say it was thrown from the vehicle as it sped through New York.

Barrow faces charges of attempted murder.

Brafman also said the case should have no impact on the business empire of his client, whose holdings include Bad Boy Records and the Sean John clothing line.

'He will come back stronger and better than before,' Brafman said.

In the state's closing arguments, delivered on Tuesday, prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos asked the jury to look beyond the hip hop star's fame and apply the law regardless of the celebrities in the high-profile case.

'This is not the 'Puff Daddy' trial. This is not the Jennifer Lopez trial. This is not the Jamaal 'Shyne' Barrow trial,' Bogdanos said. 'It's about three people who were shot in a club a little over a year ago.'

Lopez, who was Combs' girlfriend at the time of the shooting, was not charged in the case and did not testify.

'He (Combs) felt no need to put her through this spectacle,' Brafman said.

On the jury, seven people are black and five are white.

Ranging in age from the 20s to the 60s, they are a paralegal, a federal corrections officer, a tax collector, a library worker, an undercover taxi investigator, a teacher, a diamond buyer for a department store, a mail handler, three retirees and an unemployed person.


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