PUFFY TRIAL – DEFENCE LAWYER ATTACKS CREDIBILITY OF WITNESSES

The closing arguments for the defence revolve around the reliability, or otherwise, of key prosecution witnesses...

SEAN ‘PUFFY’ COMBS is the victim of “bad people” intent on lining their pockets at the expense of his career and freedom, according to the star’s defence team in his nightclub shooting trial.

During the closing arguments in Manhattan Supreme Court yesterday (March 12) Puffy’s lawyer Benjamin Brafman said the prosecution charges of gun possession and bribery against his client were shot full of inconsistencies and didn’t make sense.

“It’s like Who Wants to Be a Billionaire,” Brafman told jurors. “What happened is bad people came into this courtroom and made accusations against Sean Combs to get rich.”

Quoting a phrase coined by his co-counsel Johnnie Cochran during the infamous OJ Simpson murder trial he said: “If it doesn’t make sense, you must find for the defence.” Cochran himself decided not to make closing arguments, as he felt his fame would overshadow the proceedings, Brafman said.

Pacing the courtroom in a near-three-hour address, Brafman launched withering attacks on three of the prosecution witnesses – Puffy’s driver Wardel Fenderson and two gunshot victims Natania Reuben and Julius Jones – questioning the veracity of their testimony and their credibility as witnesses.

Each, he pointed out, had taken personal lawsuits against Combs: Fenderson for $3 million, Reuben for $150 million and Jones for $700 million.

He told the jury Fenderson had fallen $70,000 behind on child maintenance payments and, though originally up on weapons possession charges alongside Puffy and co-defendants, had cut a deal with prosecution in order to be their witness. It was he who claimed Puffy attempted to bribe him in order to admit ownership of a gun found on the floor of the vehicle in which Puffy fled the nightclub shooting from Club New York on December 27 1999.

Brafman then took personal pops at the other pair.

According to Court TV in the US, he said Jones had only held one legitimate job in his 28 years, and that was a three-month part-time stint in a city park. He intimated that the Brooklyn man, who was struck in the shoulder, had some illegal source of income, noting that he had enough money to enjoy a more than healthy social life.

Describing Jones as a pot-smoking layabout, he contemptuously asked, “What does Julius Jones do when he wakes up in the morning? What does he do? [And] you’re supposed to rely on him to end a man’s life.”

Turning on Reuben, Brafman asked jurors to remember her best friend, defence witness Patricia Richardson, had labelled her a liar. Richardson testified that Reuben admitted she had never seen a gun during the shooting.

After picking holes in further prosecution witnesses, Brafman told the jury “If ever there was a case where the reasonable doubt jumps off the page at you… it’s this case.”

Earlier, watched by Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons and Puffy’s mother, among others, the case of Puffy’s co-defendant and Bad Boy Recording protege Jamal ‘Shyne’ Barrow was wrapped up by his lawyer Ian Niles. Niles admitted his client fired a gun at the ceiling of the nightclub, but said the prosecution witness Matthew ‘Scar’ Allen started a fight and that members of his gang fired first. “His intent was to save his life,” Niles said. The lawyer also pointed out that there was no ballistic evidence to link the bullets fired by his client to those that struck the victims in the club.

Prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos barely spoke yesterday, but did take reams of notes. His close is due to begin later today (March 13).