LOS ANGELES (CN) – Prosecutors waged a “full-frontal assault” on criminal lawyers in the indictment of two attorneys who represented embattled rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight, the men’s attorney said Friday after his clients pleaded not guilty to charges of witness tampering and obstruction.
A Los Angeles County grand jury indicted Matthew Fletcher, 53, and Thaddeus Culpepper, 44, earlier this year on suspicion of bribing people to provide favorable testimonies in Knight’s murder trial. The indictment was unsealed this month.
Knight is awaiting trial in a Los Angeles 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.
Authorities say Fletcher and Culpepper bribed people who witnessed the incident. According to prosecutors, following Knight’s arrest Fletcher told his client they could pay $20,000 to $25,000 in exchange for testimony that would exonerate Knight and instructed Knight to pay Sloan for his testimony.
Knight’s business partner, Mark Blankenship, was contacted by Knight after the parking lot incident, according to the indictment.
A police informant told Culpepper he would say he saw weapons at the scene, according to prosecutors, to give credibility to Knight’s claims he feared for his life and that was why he struck the two men with his truck.
According to the unsealed indictment, a series of text messages between Blankenship and Knight’s fiancee, Toi-Lin Kelly, include Blankenship’s message about an exchange with a potential witness: “tell Suge I have spoken to Reggie and have him ready and in check if we need him” and “I’m driving with Reggie. HE SAW EVERYTHING AND CAN EXONERATE SUGE.”
On Friday, Culpepper and Fletcher pleaded not guilty before Los Angeles County Judge Sam Ohta. They requested the court to unseal the transcripts from the grand jury indictment, and Ohta gave the prosecution time to respond to the request.
Both men are represented by Los Angeles-based attorney Sam Geragos. Outside the courtroom he called the facts surrounding the case troubling.
“I think it’s a full-frontal assault on those who practice criminal offense,” said Geragos. “I know there has been what appears to me at least an assault on Mr. Knight’s attorney-client privilege, but when you drag the lawyers into it you better be sure that what they put out there is correct.”
The case against his clients is filled with factual and legal problems, Geragos said. Addressing claims that Fletcher and Culpepper contacted a potential witness who was also a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department informant and asked him to provide favorable testimony for Knight, Geragos said the conversations will appear less sinister when put into context.
Culpepper called the DA’s indictment an interference into Knight’s murder case.
“There is no need to manufacture things when the truth is in front of you,” he said.
A pretrial conference is scheduled for April 13.
Both men face charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit subordination of perjury, conspiracy to obstruct justice and accessory after the fact. They have been released on their own recognizance.
If convicted, they face up to three years, eight months in county jail.