Oops, Suge Knight's lawyers were just caught trying to pay off witnesses
LOS ANGELES (AP) — One current and one former attorney for rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight have been indicted on charges including conspiring to bribe potential witnesses in his upcoming murder trial, authorities said Monday.
Matthew Fletcher and Thaddeus Culpepper were also charged with conspiracy to commit subornation of perjury, conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and accessory after the fact to a felony, Los Angeles County prosecutors said.
The newly unsealed indictment says Fletcher attempted to pay off witnesses who could provide favorable testimony at Knight's trial, telling Knight in the weeks after his arrest that it would take $20,000 to $25,000 in payouts to secure his freedom.
Knight, the co-founder of Death Row Records, remains jailed while awaiting trial for running over two men in January 2015, killing one. He has pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder.
The indictment says Fletcher suggested to Knight that the surviving victim should be among those paid off for testimony.
Culpepper is accused of arranging with a confidential informant to provide false testimony at trial that he saw weapons at the crime scene, which could bolster claims that Knight was acting in self-defense.
The attorneys were released Monday on their own recognizance after a court appearance. They're scheduled to be arraigned March 16.
Both men have denied any wrongdoing.
Culpepper said he's excited that the indictment will give him a chance to argue against the practices of the district attorney's office.
"They've been cobbling together a case against my client and now against me, that really doesn't have any merit," Culpepper said. "The things that they're charging me with they can't prove, and they're not crimes."
Fletcher's attorney Mark Geragos did not immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.
The two lawyers were arrested in late January, with authorities saying only that they were suspected of being accessories after the fact to a felony before releasing them the next day because prosecutors wanted more investigation before filing charges.
Soon after that arrest, Knight brought Culpepper back on to his frequently-changing legal team. He had to tell a judge he waived his right to having a lawyer free of potential conflicts of interest in order to rehire Culpepper.
Knight was a key player in the gangster rap scene that flourished in the 1990s and has been kept under tight security since he turned himself in to authorities after the deadly collision.
His Death Row Records label once listed Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg among its artists. Knight lost control of the company after it was forced into bankruptcy.
Knight pleaded no contest in 1995 and was sentenced to five years of probation for assaulting two rappers in 1992. He was sentenced to prison in 1997 for violating his probation by taking part in a fight at a Las Vegas hotel hours before Shakur was fatally wounded in a drive-by attack as he rode in Knight's car.—ANDREW DALTON (AP)