Driver Testifies At Puff Daddy Trial
A driver testified today (Feb. 14) in New York that he never taught Sean "Puffy" Combs or a substitute driver a series of Dick Tracy-style moves required to open a secret compartment in Combs' sportsA driver testified today (Feb. 14) in New York that he never taught Sean "Puffy" Combs or a substitute driver a series of Dick Tracy-style moves required to open a secret compartment in Combs' sports utility vehicle. Prosecutors have alleged that occupants of Combs' Lincoln Navigator tried desperately to open the compartment as police chased them on Dec. 27, 1999, to hide two illegal guns after a shooting at a Manhattan nightclub.
Bill Williamson, 39, who for three years has been Combs' main chauffeur and had the compartment installed, testified he had taught only Paul Offord, head of Combs' security team, how to open the compartment, also referred to as a trap or safe.
Williamson said that he did not teach the elaborate access sequence -- which involved the ignition, radio and temperature controls and a hydraulic latch -- to Wardell Fenderson, the driver working that night, but "he'd seen me open it."
Last week, a police officer testifying in the rap mogul's gun possession trial said he believed the trap was designed to hold guns. But defense lawyer Benjamin Brafman contends it was for jewelry and cash.
Combs, 31, and his bodyguard, Anthony "Wolf" Jones, 34, are charged with two counts of gun possession. One count pertains to a gun police found in the Navigator, and the second involves a gun allegedly flung out of the SUV's window as police pursued the vehicle. A Combs protege, rapper Jamal Barrow, allegedly shot three people at the club. Barrow was arrested outside the club, allegedly with a gun jammed into his waistband. He is charged with three counts of attempted murder.
Combs and Jones were also charged with bribery for allegedly offering $50,000 to Fenderson to claim he owned the gun in the Navigator. Combs' then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez was in the car during the chase but not charged.
Earlier today, a publicist confirmed that Combs and Lopez had officially split up. The news had been rumored for weeks, and the performers have spent considerable time apart of late due to Combs' trial and Lopez's promotion efforts for her new Epic album "J. Lo," which debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 last month.
In an unusual twist, a diamond pinkie ring Lopez bought Combs for his birthday may turn out to be a crucial aspect of the trial. Prosecutors have charged that Combs offered Fenderson the ring as collateral for the alleged cash bribe.
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