A man who Marion “Suge” Knight ran over told authorities he was mad at the former rap music mogul and punched him through the window of the truck before an encounter that left his friend dead.
Cle “Bone” Sloan testified Monday about the day he and friend Terry Carter were hit by a pickup truck driven by Knight, the co-founder of Death Row Records.
But Sloan refused to identify Knight as the man behind the wheel when he was struck outside a Compton burger stand on Jan. 29. He said he didn’t remember specifics of the fight and does not want to be a “snitch.”
“I will not be used to send `Suge’ Knight to prison,” Sloan, an adviser on the upcoming film Straight Outta Compton, said, adding that he was only on the stand because he was subpoenaed.
Sloan’s testimony was offered during a preliminary hearing Monday during which a judge will determine whether there’s enough evidence for Knight to stand trial on murder, attempted murder, and hit-and-run charges. Authorities contend Knight intentionally hit Sloan and Carter. But Knight’s attorney Matt Fletcher says his client was ambushed and was trying to escape an attack when he hit the men.
Superior Court Judge Ronald Coen recessed the hearing and said it would resume Thursday morning, when he will rule on whether the case should go to trial.
Sloan said he was trying to forget details of the accident, in which he suffered two fractured ankles, a serious cut to his head, two torn ligaments in his knees and a shoulder injury.
“Every day, I try to forget it,” Sloan said. “I just know, I screwed up, and Terry’s dead.”
Sloan’s memory troubles prompted Coen to comment at one point on his testimony, “I find that this witness is being deceptive.”
Sloan’s faltering memory on the witness stand was contrasted by a lucid account of the events that led to his injuries with detectives on Jan. 29. In an hour-long recorded interview, Sloan quickly recalled details and told detectives how he attacked Knight twice in the burger stand parking lot. He told detectives that Knight told him he was going to kill him after he Sloan landed a blow, and said he responded, “Not today.”
He told detectives he wanted justice and would testify, but that he didn’t want to “be the guy who says (Knight) killed Terry,” according to audio of the interviewed played in court.
Sloan’s conflicting statements show the difficulty of prosecuting Knight, who was once of the music industry’s most feared names and who prosecutors say has a history of witness intimidation.
Coen also watched several minutes of surveillance video from outside the burger stand, including the moments when Knight’s truck ran over Sloan and Carter.
Sloan agreed when Knight’s attorney asked him whether he attacked Knight, who hadn’t been violent toward him.
The former gang member-turned-film consultant planned to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during part of his testimony, but a prosecutor granted him limited immunity. Afterward, Sloan said he still did not remember what occurred before his confrontation with Knight.
He denied he brought a gun to the fight, as Fletcher and one of Knight’s previous attorneys have suggested.
Knight, 49, was a key player in the gangster rap scene that flourished in the 1990s, and his label once listed Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg among its artists. Knight lost control of the company after it was forced into bankruptcy. He has prior felony convictions for armed robbery and assault with a gun. He pleaded no contest in 1995 and was sentenced to five years’ probation for assaulting two rap entertainers at a Hollywood recording studio in 1992.
He was sentenced in February 1997 to prison for violating terms of that probation by taking part in a fight at a Las Vegas hotel hours before Shakur was fatally wounded in a drive-by attack as he rode in Knight’s car just east of the Las Vegas Strip. Shakur’s slaying remains unsolved.
Knight faces up to life in prison if convicted of killing Carter. Knight is being held on $25 million bail, an amount Fletcher has argued is excessive.