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Suge Knight ordered to stand trial, taken to hospital

2015-04-17 15:28

Los Angeles - Former rap music mogul Marion "Suge" Knight was hospitalised again on Thursday after a judge ordered him to stand trial on murder and attempted murder charges filed after he ran over two men in a parking lot.

Knight's condition and the cause of his latest health problem were not immediately known, but it was the fifth time the Death Row Records co-founder had been taken from a courthouse to a hospital during proceedings in the case.

The latest trip came after Superior Court Judge Ronald Coen rejected Knight's argument that he acted in self-defence when he was viciously attacked by men outside a Compton burger stand.

Authorities contend Knight intentionally hit the men, killing Terry Carter, 55, and injuring Cle "Bone" Sloan.

Knight's attorney Matt Fletcher argued that his client was ambushed and was trying to escape from Sloan when Knight ran down the men in the attack captured on security video.

"There's no intent to kill," Fletcher said in court while asking the judge to dismiss the case. "There's an intent to survive."

Coen, however, said it appeared Knight, 49, wasn't attempting to flee but instead trying to kill someone when he accelerated forward in the truck. The judge did throw out one of two hit-and-run counts, saying the charge applies to one event even if there are multiple victims. He also reduced bail from $25m to $10m.

Testimony from Sloan

Knight appeared to be OK as he looked at members of his family in the gallery and shuffled out of the courtroom in ankle shackles and handcuffs. He was later taken to the hospital.

Knight has diabetes and a blood clot near his lung, his lawyer previously said. Before word of his hospitalisation was public, his fiancée, Toi Kelly, said outside court that Knight's health had been improving.

Fletcher said on Thursday evening that he did not have any information about his client's health.

The ruling came at the end of a hearing that focused heavily on testimony from Sloan, a former gang member who told detectives he attacked Knight before getting run over.

Sloan said he didn't remember the fight and did not want to be a snitch. Prosecutors played a statement by Sloan to police that offered a lucid, detailed account of the events on 29 January that led to the deadly encounter.

Sloan's testimony demonstrated the difficulty in prosecuting Knight, who has gang ties and a reputation for intimidating witnesses.

"I will not be used to send Suge Knight to prison," Sloan testified, adding that he was on the witness stand only because he was subpoenaed. He has known Knight for decades.

Prosecutors granted Sloan immunity from prosecution after he said he intended to invoke his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.

Life in prison

Knight was a key player in the gangster rap scene that flourished in the 1990s, and his 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.

Sloan, an adviser on the upcoming film Straight Outta Compton about rap music, testified that he was trying not to think about the crash in which he suffered two fractured ankles, a serious cut to his head, two torn knee ligaments and a shoulder injury.

The judge also heard from the lead detective in the case and watched the security footage of the crash.

The camera caught a limited view of the parking lot, but it shows Knight struggling with Sloan through the window of the truck. Knight then put the vehicle in reverse, striking Sloan twice before running over Carter while fleeing the scene.

Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Barnes said Knight gave up his right to claim self-defence when he used his car as a deadly weapon in response to a fistfight.

Knight could face life in prison if convicted in the case. He has prior felony convictions for armed robbery and assault with a gun. Knight pleaded no contest in a 1995 assault on two rap entertainers and was sentenced to five years' probation.

He was sentenced to prison in February 1997 for violating terms of the 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. Shakur's slaying remains unsolved.


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