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Suge Knight faces next court date on May 29

LOS ANGELES — Former rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight, who is accused of running down two men in a Compton parking lot, pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of murder, attempted murder and hit-and-run.

Knight — charged with killing Terry Carter, 55, and injuring Cle “Bone” Sloan, 51, on Jan. 29 in a Compton parking lot — was scheduled by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen for a May 29 pre-trial hearing.

Coen refused a request by Knight attorney Matthew Fletcher to lower Knight’s $10 million bail.

Knight’s trial is tentatively scheduled for July 7. Fletcher said, however, he will ask another judge next month to dismiss the charges on an issue he conceded was a technicality — claiming nobody actually identified Knight during his client’s preliminary hearing.

Fletcher has contended his client was the victim of an unprovoked attack in broad daylight by Sloan and others and was acting in self-defense. He alleges authorities solely focused their attention on Knight.

Sloan testified during the preliminary hearing, but said he appeared only because he had been subpoenaed and insisted he would not be used as a “snitch” to put Knight behind bars. He repeatedly said he remembered little about what happened in the parking lot.

He even hesitated when he was asked to identify Knight in court, suggesting the man sitting in court “doesn’t look like the guy who was out there.”

Attorneys, however, read from a transcript of his interview with detectives shortly after he was struck and Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Barnes later played a recording of the conversation for the court.

In that hospital interview, Sloan said he had argued with Knight earlier at a film set and was driving to another location when he spotted the rap mogul in a parking lot and heard Knight bad-mouthing him and making threats. Sloan told detectives he jumped out of his car and started punching Knight through the window of Knight’s truck.

Fletcher said Sloan told police he was “enraged” and that there had been “bad blood” between Sloan and Knight for years.

On the stand, Sloan testified that Knight “always gets under my skin” and acknowledged that he was “mad” but denied being “enraged.”

Sloan said Knight had been harassing the producers of a film called “Straight Outta Compton,” including Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and director Gary Gray, since last summer when the film was shot. The movie is about the emergence of the rap group N.W.A.

On the day in question, filming of some promotional ads for the feature had been shut down at one location until Knight left the set because the producers were scared of the former rap mogul, Sloan said.

Fletcher said Sloan had been hired as security to “deal with Suge Knight” and suggested Sloan had a gun at the confrontation at Tam’s — an allegation Sloan denied. Fletcher also accused Sloan of reaching into Knight’s truck and hitting the gear shift.

“You’re the one who put the car in gear and ran him over,” he said to Sloan, who denied it.

Knight was free on bail in a robbery case when he was charged with murder.

A Compton native and former football player, Knight co-founded Death Row Records, which in its heyday in the early 1990s generated revenues of up to $100 million per year.

He helped launch some of rap’s biggest acts, including Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and the late Tupac Shakur, and was in a car with Shakur when the rapper was gunned down in Las Vegas in 1996.