2 minute read

Jamaal "Shyne" Barrow Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs and Anthony Jones Trial: 2001

Tainted Witnesses Or A Bad Case?

When testimony began on January 29, 2001, prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos proposed that Combs was responsible for the shooting because his celebrity status had allowed his party to enter Club New York without being searched for weapons. Bogdanos also accused Combs of firing a gun into the club's ceiling during the fight. Combs's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, loudly accused the prosecution of persecuting his client despite a lack of factual evidence.

The trial quickly became a contest over the quality of witness testimony. Two prosecution witnesses, both of whom had testified before a grand jury that they witnessed an argument between Combs and Allen, changed their stories on the stand, infuriating prosecutor Bogdanos. They denied being able to identify Combs as a participant in the scuffle or seeing him with a gun. A third witness admitted that she was unsure what she might have seen in Combs's hand as he ran from the club. By contrast, numerous witnesses placed a gun in Barrow's hand.

The first witness claiming to have seen a gun in Combs's hand was Natania Ruben, Thewho was witnessshot in the face during the incident. guninCombs'sRuben testified saw both Combs and Barrow fire. When Ruben stuck to her story, defense attorney Brafman accused her of trying to malign Combs's reputation to aid her multimillion-dollar damages lawsuit against him. The second witness to place a gun in Combs's possession was chauffeur Wardell Fenderson, who testified that he saw Combs slip a pistol into his waistband before entering Club New York. The driver described Combs and Jones fumbling with a hidden compartment in the vehicle, trying to hide the weapon as police chased them from the club. Fenderson assumed that Jones or Combs had thrown a weapon from the SUV, for he had seen light stream through an opening window. Fenderson also accused Combs of offering him a diamond ring as part of a $50,000 payment for claiming ownership of the gun found in the vehicle. "Listen, you know, I'm Puff Daddy. I can't take the gun," Combs allegedly told the driver. Fenderson testified that he was tempted by the offer and accepted, but later declined it.

While Judge Charles Solomon was refereeing daily shouted objections from both sides, the media commented on everything from Combs's mother's wardrobe to the possibility that Jennifer Lopez might appear as a witness. Amid reports that Lopez and Combs had ended their relationship, speculators wondered which side might call her as a witness. Ultimately, she did not testify at all.

When the defense began its case, it concentrated on claims that Combs had been seen with a weapon at all, let alone firing one. Most damaging to the prosecution was security guard Cherise Myers, who recalled "Scar" Allen throwing money in Combs's face and being jostled as club customers grappled for the cash. Myers was advising Combs to leave the club rather than argue with Allen when she saw Barrow firing twice. She fell on top of Combs to protect him. Other people then tumbled on top of them. Myers testified that she never saw a gun in Combs's hands. Several witnesses recalled Combs dancing on a coffee table at the club with his arms raised. None saw a gun in his exposed waistband. When Combs took the stand in his own defense, his attorney asked him if he had a gun at any time on the night of the incident. "Absolutely not," Combs replied.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentJamaal "Shyne" Barrow Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs and Anthony Jones Trial: 2001 - Tainted Witnesses Or A Bad Case?, Lawyers Battle In Closing Arguments