LOS ANGELES (CN) – Embattled rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight lashed out in a Los Angeles courtroom on Friday after a 15th defense attorney asked to withdraw from the case over what she called “meritless charges” of witness tampering filed against two other attorneys who represented Knight in dual criminal cases.
Knight, 52, has been in the LA County jail on suspicion of killing Terry Carter, 55, and injuring Cle “Bone” Sloan with his truck in a Compton parking lot in January 2015. Knight, the former producer and founder of gangsta rap label Death Row Records, says he feared for his life when he struck Carter with his truck.
His attorneys argued in the media that someone approached him in the parking lot with a gun.
Knight faces charges of robbery and making a criminal threat against the director of the movie “Straight Outta Compton,” which highlighted the early days of the rap group N.W.A. and portrayed Knight in an unflattering light.
Last week, two of Knight’s former attorneys pleaded not guilty to witness tampering and obstruction. Prosecutors say Matthew Fletcher, 53, and Thaddeus Culpepper, 44, bribed people to provide favorable testimonies in the murder trial, scheduled for this year.
Friday’s hearing was meant to be a pretrial hearing for that case, but Knight’s remaining attorney Dominique Baños requested to withdraw from all pending cases.
The reason for her request is under seal, but outside the courtroom Baños cited prosecutors’ targeting of Culpepper and Fletcher as the reason. She was hired to represent Knight on the criminal threats charge this past September, replacing Fletcher.
Baños said Knight will still prevail in both cases.
But on Friday morning Knight lashed out after learning Baños had withdrawn.
“They never allowed me to hire my own attorney,” Knight said, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and in handcuffs. “I complained over and over again and – never allowed to use the phone to call my attorney.”
Knight also blasted Fletcher and Culpepper, calling them unreliable and complaining they did not share information with him. He also blamed prosecutors for releasing information to the media in a “smear campaign” against him ahead of the trials.
“I should have the right to use my money,” Knight said, adding he has hired a new lawyer but did not offer a name.
“You should understand this is a real simple case. Either I did something or I didn’t,” Knight told Judge Ronald Coen.
“You need to take a deep breath,” Coen replied.
Knight also appeared before Judge Craig Richman on Friday, who called the matter of reassigning lawyers a case of déjà vu.
Meanwhile, a verbal argument broke out in the gallery between two parties and carried into the hallway outside the courtroom. Additional bailiffs were called and Richman warned that such behavior would result in being barred from future proceedings.
Los Angeles-based attorney Albert DeBlanc Jr. has been assigned to Knight’s case. A new pretrial date has been set for April 23.
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