LOS ANGELES — Former rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight was ordered Thursday to stand trial on murder, attempted murder and hit-and-run charges for allegedly running down two men in Compton with his pickup, killing one and injuring the other.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen — who reduced Knight’s bail from $25 million to $10 million — said he found “sufficient evidence” to require Knight to stand trial on one felony count each of murder, attempted murder and hit-and-run for allegedly killing 55-year-old Terry Carter and injuring Cle “Bone” Sloan, 51, on Jan. 29 in the parking lot of Tam’s Burgers in the 1200 block of West Rosecrans Avenue.
The judge dismissed a second hit-and-run charge against Knight, who will turn 50 on Sunday. He is due back in court April 30 for arraignment.
Knight’s attorney, Matthew Fletcher, contends his client was the victim of an unprovoked attack in broad daylight by Sloan and others and was acting in self-defense. He has alleged that authorities solely focused their attention on Knight.
After the court hearing, Knight — who has been hospitalized on multiple occasions following court hearings — was taken to a hospital again.
Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida would say only that Knight was taken to a hospital to receive “medical care,” but she declined to discuss the nature of Knight’s medical issue.
Shortly after the hearing, Fletcher told reporters outside court that he was “very pleased that the judge listened to the evidence and then lowered the bail by 60 percent,” saying he thought it was a “fair reaction to the weakness” of the prosecution’s case.
“I don’t know, probably, maybe,” the defense attorney said when asked if Knight could come up with the bail and be released. “I won’t be surprised if he bails out.”
On Monday, 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 [Carter] over,” he said to Sloan, who denied it.
Sloan was reminded that he had been granted immunity by prosecutors for whatever role he might have played in the events of Jan. 29. That seemed to do little to jog his memory, but he expressed regret.
“That’s the whole tragic thing. … If I didn’t make that right turn [into the parking lot], I wouldn’t be sitting here,” Sloan said.
Knight was free on bail in a robbery case when he was charged with murder.
A Compton native, 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.
Knight was with Shakur when the rapper was gunned down in Las Vegas in 1996.