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New Defense Emerges in Trial Over Hip-Hop Hit

MANHATTAN (CN) - A former hip-hop executive implied, but never explicitly said, that he wanted the 50 Cent's associate dead, a government witness testified in the murder-for-hire trial Tuesday.

That defense seemed to surprise presiding U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon, who commented before afternoon recess that she had previously been "blissfully ignorant" that there could be a defense of a shooting "gone bad," a crime that would typically fall outside a federal court's purview.

"This isn't Bronx Supreme Court," she said.

James "Jimmy the Henchman" Rosemond, who is already is serving life after an unrelated 2012 federal trial in Brooklyn, faces a new jury weighing whether he paid goons drugs and cash to kill Lowell Fletcher, affiliated with 50 Cent's crew G-Unit. The hit allegedly was payback for Fletcher's assault on Rosemond's 14-year-old son.

On Tuesday, a new defense for Rosemond emerged during testimony from cooperating witness Brian McCleod, who testified that the music executive did not say outright that he wanted Fletcher killed when he offered money to harm him.

"I have $30,000 to anyone who can bring him to me," Rosemond said, according to the testimony. "I'm gonna hit him so fast and so swift that no one is ever going to know what happened."

Fletcher said he got separated from the hit men on the night of the Sept. 26, 2009, shootings, and that he did not see the gunfire. Still, he said that he collected a kilogram of cocaine for his part in it. He is testifying pursuant to a cooperating agreement with the government.

Earlier in the day, McCleod said that he thought the bounty was for someone to leave a "scar or mark" on Fletcher.

Rosemond's lawyer Bruce Maffeo seized upon the distinction during cross-examination, getting McCleod to agree that his client never explicitly talked of murder.

Donald Yannella, an attorney for Rosemond's co-defendant Rodney Johnson, took over questioning after the afternoon recess.

He noted that gangsta rappers often try to "cultivate an outlaw image."

McCleod agreed with Yannella's statement that, in the industry, "no publicity is bad publicity."

Prosecutor Santosh Aravind asked McCleod on redirect about the unspoken side of Rosemond's alleged plans.

As more people became involved, McCleod said that it seemed that certain "things had changed [that] I'm not privy to."

"I was never gonna be the gunman," he added.

The prosecutor asked: "As you sit here today, do you have any doubt as to whether it was a murder or a shooting?"

"No," McCleod replied. "It was a murder."

McCleod agreed, when pressed by attorney Maffeo, that he told prosecutors the opposite on two separate occasions, years apart, before taking the stand.

Court recessed after his testimony concluded, and the government's case will resume on Wednesday.

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