Archive for Thursday, February 1, 2001

Witness: Puffy didn’t carry gun

Former bodyguard said he never saw rapper with firearm

February 1, 2001

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— A former corrections officer who moonlighted as a bodyguard for Sean "Puffy" Combs testified Wednesday that he had never once seen the rap impresario carrying a weapon.

Prosecution witness Leonard Curtis Howard said he would never have associated himself with Combs if the defendant had carried a firearm.

"If he is going to carry an illegal firearm, there is no reason for me to be there," Howard said under cross-examination. "I'm not going to put my job in jeopardy for Mr. Combs."

The rapper and hip-hop businessman was arrested on Dec. 27, 1999, after he fled a nightclub near Times Square with his girlfriend, actress-singer Jennifer Lopez. Combs, 31, was charged with gun possession and bribery for allegedly offering his driver $50,000 to take the rap for having a gun found in their vehicle. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of bribery, the higher charge.

Earlier Wednesday, defense attorney Benjamin Brafman had moved unsuccessfully for a mistrial because he was upset by Assistant Dist. Atty. Matthew Bogdanos' use of Howard's grand jury testimony to contradict his trial testimony.

At trial, Howard testified that he had seen Combs frisked on occasion when entering nightclubs. But Howard told the grand jury that he had never seen Combs searched in that situation an important distinction, since prosecutors claim the Grammy-winning rapper carried a gun into the nightclub and fired a shot on the night of his arrest.

"When a witness lies as egregiously as Mr. Howard did, it is incumbent upon the (questioning) attorney to point that out to the jury," Bogdanos said.

Combs' rap prot, Jamal "Shyne" Barrow, 21, is charged with attempted murder and assault for allegedly firing a pistol in the club, wounding three patrons, during a dispute in which another patron reportedly insulted Combs. Also charged with illegal gun possession was Combs' bodyguard that night, Anthony "Wolf" Jones, 34.

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