COMPTON — Former rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of murder, attempted murder and hit-and-run stemming from an incident in which he allegedly ran down two men deliberately after an argument, killing one and injuring the other.
Knight was ordered to return to court next Monday for a bail review hearing requested by his attorney to review the revocation of the $2 million bail that was initially granted in the case.
Charges arising from last Thursday’s fatal hit-and-run were filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office Monday, when a court commissioner also revoked Knight’s $2 million bail on grounds that he is “a possible flight risk” and a three-strikes candidate. According to a Sheriff’s Department statement, “possible witness intimidation issues and a criminal past” were also factors.
The complaint against Knight, who could be incarcerated for life if convicted of the charges he now faces, includes an allegation that he committed a serious and violent felony while out on bail in an unrelated robbery case, as well as use of a deadly weapon and causing great bodily injury allegations.
Knight has prior convictions, making this a third-strike case, according to the complaint.
The 49-year-old Knight surrendered early Friday and was booked on suspicion of murder. The hit-and-run occurred around 2:55 p.m. Thursday in the parking lot of Tam’s Burgers in the 1200 block of West Rosecrans Avenue, near Central Avenue.
Knight allegedly drove his pickup truck backward and forward, killing Terry Carter, 55, and injuring 51-year-old Cle Stone, who was treated at a hospital.
Knight’s attorney, James Blatt, confirmed his client was behind the wheel of the pickup that struck the men, but said he acted out of fear in trying to escape as many as four people who attacked him. Blatt also claimed that Knight had been unaware that he had hit two men with the pickup, which was later found in a Westwood parking lot.
Lt. John Corina, a sheriff’s homicide detective, told reporters late last week that investigators believe Knight intentionally struck the men and that he was not acting out of a reasonable fear.
Corina said Knight had gotten into an argument at a film shoot for a promotional video for “Straight Out of Compton,” a biopic of the Compton rap group N.W.A. Knight, and was told to leave. The argument resumed about 20 minutes later at the eatery about three miles away.
Corina alleged that Stone exchanged punches with Knight through the open window of his truck before the rapper intentionally ran him over, then struck Carter — who had been standing next to Stone — while accelerating forward.
Knight’s lawyer described Carter as a friend of his client’s, and Corina said Carter was not believed to have been involved in the altercation with Knight.
The website TMZ.com reported that surveillance cameras at the Tam’s Burgers crime scene were broken and that cameras at a nearby bank, drug store and a competing fast-food outlet were pointing away from the crime scene.
Sheriff’s deputies, however, have said they have video of the dispute.
Knight was already awaiting trial on a robbery charge stemming from the alleged theft of a camera from a paparazzo in Beverly Hills last September. He is charged in that case, along with comedian Micah “Katt” Williams, and faces up to 30 years to life in prison if convicted in the robbery case.
Knight co-founded Death Row Records, which in its heyday in the early 1990s was generating revenues of about $100 million per year. He helped launch some of rap’s biggest acts, including Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur, and was with Shakur the night he was slain in 1996.
Knight served five years in prison for assault and federal weapons violations and, after his release in 2001, spent another 10 months behind bars for violating parole by hitting a Hollywood nightclub valet.
He was shot a half-dozen times last August at a Los Angeles-area nightclub. No arrests have been made in that case.