Just weeks after leaving federal prison, rapper Beanie Sigel was back in Philadelphia court yesterday (Sept. 21) defending himself on charges he shot and nearly killed a man two years ago on a crowded

Just weeks after leaving federal prison, rapper Beanie Sigel was back in Philadelphia court yesterday (Sept. 21) defending himself on charges he shot and nearly killed a man two years ago on a crowded city street.

A prior jury deadlocked in the attempted murder case, which could send the 31-year-old Sigel, born Dwight Grant, back to prison for years. The trial was expected to last through the week.

Sigel's first trial in 2004 drew stars Jay-Z and Beyonce, but yesterday's session proved fairly sedate. The most notable spectator was an elegantly dressed Damon Dash, the Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder who signed Sigel and remains a mentor.

Sigel chatted with a small entourage of family and friends at a break, but declined to comment on the trial because of a gag order.

Assistant District Attorney Lynn Nichols contended that Sigel shot Terrance Speller and urged jurors during opening statements not to let the rapper's fame get in the way of the facts.

Defense lawyer Fortunato N. Perri Jr. pledged to discredit the state's two key witnesses -- Speller and a friend who came to his aid -- saying both have criminal records and were intoxicated at the time.

Speller testified that he first told police he was shot during a robbery, but a day later told his family and police that Sigel had shot him. He said he was initially afraid to tell the truth. "I wanted to make sure I was going to be all right and my family was going to be all right," Speller said.

Speller offered a possible motive for his July 1, 2003, shooting near a West Philadelphia go-go bar, saying he had argued that night with the teen daughter of Sigel's girlfriend.

On cross-examination by Perri, Speller acknowledged that he had smoked marijuana and drank heavily that night.

Sigel has a long arrest record dating to his youth in South Philadelphia. He left federal prison last month after serving nearly a year on a federal weapons charge that stemmed from a 2002 traffic stop in Philadelphia. He faces another city trial for allegedly breaking a man's eye socket during a January 2003 argument.


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