Two attorneys who have represented Marion “Suge” Knight at various stages of his upcoming murder trial were indicted Monday following accusations of witness tampering that have roiled the case since last year.
Thaddeus Culpepper and Matthew Fletcher appeared in a downtown courtroom Monday morning where they were charged with conspiracy, according to a spokesman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. A charge of accessory after the fact to the 2015 murder Knight is accused of was also filed, though it was not immediately clear which attorney was accused of that count.
A grand jury returned the indictment against both men in recent weeks, prosecutors said in court.
In a court filing made public last year, prosecutors accused Culpepper of agreeing to pay a man for “testimony that he was present at the time of the crime and [witnessed] evidence favorable to the defense.” Unbeknownst to Culpepper, the man was actually an informant for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Culpepper and Fletcher were arrested on suspicion of being accessories to the murder in January, but released within 24 hours. Culpepper is representing Knight on the pending murder case and an unrelated robbery charge. Fletcher was previously an attorney of record in the case.
Judge Scott Gordon released both men on their own recognizance, and an arraignment was scheduled for March 16. Neither man entered a plea, but both have previously denied wrongdoing in an interview with The Times.
Knight has remained jailed in downtown Los Angeles since January 2015, when he rammed his truck into two men at a famous Compton burger stand after a dispute on the set of the N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton.” Terry Carter, 55, died of his injuries. Another man, 52-year-old Cle “Bone” Sloan, survived.
Knight has pleaded not guilty and claimed self-defense. His attorneys have repeatedly argued that either the victims or someone else at Tam’s Burgers, where the crash took place, had a gun. Prosecutors say the evidence does not support that claim and a gun was never recovered.
His murder trial is scheduled to begin next month, and the years leading up to it have been marked by legal drama and accusations of misconduct. Knight has cycled through at least five attorneys in connection with the looming murder case, a 2014 robbery case that also involved comedian Micah “Katt” Williams and accusations that he threatened to harm the director of “Straight Outta Compton.”
In August, prosecutors filed a 22-page motion accusing Knight, his fiance, and several attorneys of discussing potential witness tampering during jailhouse phone calls. A judge had previously signed an order that allowed investigators to listen to the calls, which normally would have been protected by attorney-client privilege, after the Sheriff’s Department developed information that Knight might be involved in witness tampering.
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SOURCE: LA Times, James Queally