NEW TWIST IN PUFFY TRIAL

Prosecutors are reported to be investigating the star, or people acting on his behalf...

Following a two-day break the SEAN ‘PUFFY’ COMBS nightclub shooting trial is set to resume in MANHATTAN SUPERIOR COURT today (February 14) under a quite sensational shadow. Prosecutors are said to be investigating whether or not Puffy, or people acting on his behalf, tampered with key prosecution witnesses.

The New York Post carried a front page splash this morning alleging that the probe was sparked after three witnesses changed their testimony from that originally given to investigating officers and a grand jury during early 2000 to something favourable to Combs.

The witnesses under investigation are said to be Combs bodyguard Leonard Curtis Howard, rapper Gavin “Pretty Boy” Marchand, and a club patron named Tarnisha Smith. The Post claims all three have been questioned as to why their testimony changed. Neither prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos nor Combs’ lawyer Benjamin Brafman could comment on the probe because of a judge’s gag order.

Testifying on the first day in court (January 29), Howard contradicted his grand-jury testimony at least six times in ways that helped his boss. He claimed not to have seen Puffy with a gun at any time on the night of December 26/27 1999. When Bogdanos challenged him as to why his story had changed, Howard explained that due to a drug course he was following for cancer he had become forgetful. He finished his testimony reinforcing that Puffy hadn’t carried a gun that night adding, “If he is to carry a firearm, there is no purpose to me being around.” During a day of legal wrangling without the jury (January 30) present, Bogdanos, infuriated, asked the judge to have the testimony thrown out. He told Supreme Court Justice Charles Solomon that it could be considered perjury “when a witness lies as egregiously as Mr. Howard did.” The move led to Brafman filing for a mistrial, a move that was knocked by the judge.

Marchand had told grand jurors he had a clear view of Combs and a man, later identified as Scar, arguing in the club that night – the fight that allegedly prompted the shooting.

But on the witness stand on February 1, he retreated from that account, saying he’d meant “It could have been Puffy’s people” involved in the argument.

Smith has originally told police immediately after the shooting (and repeated to the grand jury) that she had seen Combs fleeing the nightclub with a gun in his hand. But while in the witness box on February 2, Smith backed down, telling jurors that “at the time, I thought it was a gun,” but that she could no longer be sure.

Puffy, his bodyguard Anthony ‘Wolf’ Jones and rapper Jamal ‘Shyne’ Barrow face charges relating to the shooting in Club New York during the early hours of December 27, 1999. While Puffy and Jones face weapons and bribery charges, Shyne faces the more serious charges of attempted murder, reckless endangerment and weapons possession.

The case continues today (February 14).