PUFFY TAKES THE STAND

The rap mogul took the stand for three hours yesterday (March 1)...

SEAN ‘PUFFY’ COMBS took the stand for more than three hours in court in NEW YORK yesterday (March 1) and gave his version of events on the night of a shooting at CLUB NEW YORK on December 27, 1999.

The 31-year-old has pleaded not guilty to charges of possession of a firearm and attempting to bribe Wardel Fenderson by offering him $50,000 and a platinum pinkie ring to tell police the gun was his.

According to [url=]www.courttv.com, Combs looked exhausted but pleased when he left the stand, hugging his lawyers Johnnie Cochran and Benjamin Brafman and shaking hands with supporters in the hall outside, where he accepted a bouquet of red roses.

Puffy’s mum was in court to see his testimony, along with supporters including rapper Heavy D. He described his rise from his childhood in Harlem to his position as chart star, fashion company boss and chief executive of Bad Boy Entertainment record label, worth an estimated $400 million.

He refused to tell the court why he earned the nickname ‘Puffy’, saying: “Do I have to answer that? It’s a nickname. I don’t want to go into details.”

Earlier this week, prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos had said that Puffy had faced possible charges of contempt of court for issuing a statement saying that ex-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez would not have to take the stand because he was doing so, but it has since emerged that it has not been entirely ruled out that the singer may yet be called to give evidence.

Winding up the case for his defence, 31-year-old Puffy – dressed in a conservative navy suit – said that on December 27, 1999, he and Lopez left his Hamptons mansion to attend a hip-hop party at Club New York, a disco near Times Square, which he described as a regular hang-out for executives and artists in the black music industry. Combs’ driver, Wardel Fenderson, testified that, before leaving for the club, Combs had climbed into the back of his vehicle and fumbled with a gun before securing it in his waistband. Combs denied that, saying he had never seen Fenderson nor been in the vehicle that night before going to the club.

Witnesses have been divided over whether a gun was seen in his waistband or not.

He said he was with three security guards who were licensed to carry firearms when he visited the club with Lopez.

He said he was dancing on top of a table in the VIP area of the club and “was in a festive mood,” with his hands raised above his head in “celebratory” fashion and passing out champagne.

“I was going away the next day and I was happy to be with Jennifer,” CNN reported him as saying.

He said that he and Lopez decided to leave the club just before 3am, with his off-duty bodyguard Anthony ‘Wolf’ Jones helping them make for the exit. There was some form of confrontation between a man at the club, Matthew ‘Scar’ Allen, and some witnesses have testified that money was thrown just before shots rang out.

He said that he stopped and asked Jones what was happening, denying that he faced off against the man himself, and then turned to leave when he heard gunshots. He was knocked to the floor, and said he never saw a gun or his protege, rapper Jamal ‘Shyne’ Barrow, who is co-accused of possessing a gun.

He denied ordering Fenderson to bolt off and said he never ordered him either to stop the car or to drive off.

“I was looking at Jennifer. I was still in shock,” he said.

Questioned about the 9mm semi-automatic gun which was found under the front passenger seat, he said he “absolutely” did not know it was there and asked Jones and Fenderson when they entered the police station whose gun it was. Both denied ownership, but Fenderson claimed he was pressurised by Puffy and Jones into claiming ownership of the gun, which he did twice before changing his statement, and that he was given a platinum pinkie ring and promised $50,000.

He said he was more concerned with trying to get a lawyer and pacify Lopez, who was handcuffed to a bench six feet away. “She was almost in shock. She could not believe this,” he said, adding that he begged officers to loosen the handcuffs on her.

He admitted that he called Fenderson following the arrest, but said he was trying to encourage him to co-operate with his own lawyer. He also claimed that his phone call to Fenderson after the incident, saying he wanted to make his family “comfortable”, which the driver, who had been sacked, took to be a threat, was made in good faith and he was “being supportive”.

“He was distraught and devastated… He said he didn’t know how he was going to feed his family,” said Combs.

During the hearing, Combs also alluded to the “billion dollars” of civil lawsuits being brought against him by witnesses for the prosecution, including Fenderson, who is seeking $3 million in damages.

Barrow’s lawyer will begin his case today (March 2). Next week, as the trial moves into its sixth week, the prosecution are expected to call Allen, the man alleged to have instigated the fight.