A judge said yesterday (March 23) that Death Row Records will be placed in receivership unless label founder Marion "Suge" Knight appears at a debtor hearing next month.

A judge said yesterday (March 23) that Death Row Records will be placed in receivership unless label founder Marion "Suge" Knight appears at a debtor hearing next month.

California Superior Court Judge Ronald Sohigian ruled in a lawsuit by an imprisoned drug dealer who is seeking half of a $107 million award to the inmate's ex-wife, who claimed she helped start the rap record empire and that Knight owed her the money.

Michael Harris, who is serving a 28-year sentence at San Quentin State Prison, is claiming half of the $107 million as community property in his divorce from Lydia Harris. He also claims he put up $1.5 million from behind bars to help start the record label, a contention that Knight has repeatedly denied.

Lydia Harris received the $107 million judgment a year ago and the parties have been fighting in court ever since. In a contentious hearing, lawyers for Michael Harris accused Knight of trying to evade his legal obligations by failing to show up for debtor examinations three times. He was also absent from yesterday's hearing.

"There is no explanation or excuse for not coming," said attorney Steve Goldberg, who represents Michael Harris. "Enough is enough. It is time for a receiver and an order for contempt. There are rules of court that should be obeyed and Mr. Knight is making a mockery of it."

Knight's lawyer, Dermot Givens, asked the judge for a postponement on grounds that Knight was hiring a new team of lawyers for the case. But the judge refused. "There has been a very, very protracted history of difficulty in this case," said Sohigian.

Attorney Rex Beaber, who represents Lydia Harris, cited a long string of what he termed "frivolous motions" by Knight including an effort to move the case to federal court where it was rejected and sent back to state court.

He also accused Knight of shifting his assets and said, "As we speak, the transfer of these assets may continue ... The court should appoint a receiver today."

Givens reluctantly agreed to a debtor examination before a court referee on April 1, promised Knight would appear and said, "We will not secrete any assets anywhere."

Ruling from the bench, the judge said the motion for receivership was granted but stayed its effect pending Knight's April 1 appearance. Sohigian also enjoined Knight from transferring or secreting any assets. The judge asked for a written order to be prepared by Goldberg, but it was not submitted by the end of the hearing.

Outside court, Beaber said, "Knight has been ordered to show up and cough up, to show where his assets are."

Givens told reporters outside court that there was already a settlement in which Lydia Harris received $1 million from Knight. But Goldberg interrupted, declaring, that documents Givens had in his briefcase were "doctored" and "There is no settlement of this case. Nobody would settle a $107 million case for $1 million."

Last December, a judge in Monterey County froze Knight's assets, saying Knight and his lawyers had failed to answer questions and provide information in the case.


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