STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON
Suge Knight’s Bizarre First Day In Court: A New Lawyer and A Recusal
Pleading not guilty to murder, the former rap mogul appointed a new lawyer while the judge recused himself from the case.
The Suge Knight saga just took another strange turn.
Facing life in prison, rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight, 49, pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder Tuesday morning in Compton for a deadly hit-and-run tied to the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton.
The Death Row Records co-founder remains behind bars following the fatal incident at Tam’s Burgers, a Compton fast food burger joint that left Knight's alleged friend and former business associate Terry Carter dead and a second victim, Cle “Bone” Sloan, seriously injured. Sloan, a former affiliate of the L.A. gang the Bloods, was serving as a security guard and location scout on Straight Outta Compton. Knight’s $2 million bail was previously revoked, with the judge deeming him a potential flight risk.
Knight's new defense attorney David Kenner, who replaced attorney James Blatt this week, is still playing catch up. “I'm told there's video, but I haven't seen it,” he told journalists after Knight's arraignment.
The now silver-haired Kenner, a veteran attorney of several high profile cases, famously helped get rapper Snoop Dogg acquitted of murder charges in 1996. He repped Knight in previous cases and was the longtime principal attorney for Death Row Records during the record company’s mid-‘90s gangsta rap heyday.
Sloan's attorney Michael R. Shapiro said his client is in “shock” and “not in good condition” with a “very badly mangled left foot and head injury.” He hinted at a civil case in the works and praised Straight Outta Compton distributor Universal Pictures, who he said is paying Sloan’s workman's comp for his injuries.
Meanwhile, the Suge Knight circus extended to the bench as the judge in the case, John Cheroske, recused himself for having previously represented one of the victims in court. Sloan's lawyer said that he was law school classmates at USC with Cheroske and the judge made the right decision in bowing out. And Knight was quickly rushed off to a local hospital for medical evaluation immediately following his arraignment, according to a Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department official. The spokesperson refused to disclose the reason for the evaluation citing that personal medical information is privileged, although reports claim Knight suffered a panic attack.
Freshly retained lawyer Kenner said he hasn't spoken with Blatt, and that the decision to revoke Knight's $2 million bail took everyone by surprise. “I didn't know it was happening - it happened while I was visiting Suge in jail.”
Knight, he said, is “doing fine.” The attorney said he was not worried for Knight's safety behind bars.
Asked if Knight is remorseful for the tragedy, Kenner said, “Of course... He feels bad that someone is deceased. It's not his fault.”
According to eyewitness accounts, last Thursday, former Death Row Records affiliates—and Straight Outta Compton subjects—Ice Cube and Dr. Dre were shooting a promotional video for the film about their hip-hop group at the historic Compton barbershop Holiday Styles. Knight attempted to pay the shoot a visit but was banned from the set, with sources citing Dr. Dre’s restraining order against Knight (the two had a massive falling out in the ‘90s following Dre’s exit from Death Row).
Terry Carter, an alleged mutual friend of the rappers and Knight, reportedly attempted to smooth things over with the ex-rap mogul, and the two met at Tam’s to hash things out, with Knight pulling up in his Ford F-150 Raptor in the parking lot. That’s when things reportedly took a turn for the worse. Sloan, 51, showed up, and an “altercation” allegedly ensued between him and Knight.
“They got into some kind of verbal altercation and it escalated,” according to L.A. county sheriff’s lieutenant John Corina.
Knight, who was in allegedly poor health after being hospitalized with a blood clot in November, reportedly put his car in drive and struck Sloan—who’s been hospitalized but is in stable condition. Around that time, Carter pulled up in his Dodge Magnum and exited the vehicle, when Knight’s Ford allegedly struck him as well.
“Terry was coming up in the lot, the car hits him, knocks him down, and it just rolls over him – the tire ran over his head,” an on-set source told The Guardian. Carter was pronounced dead at the scene.
The question remains, of course, whether Knight was merely trying to defend himself and, in a panic, accidentally ran over Carter with his truck. To be continued.