Los Angeles — Former rap music mogul Marion "Suge" Knight must stand trial on murder and attempted-murder charges for striking two men with his pickup truck, killing one and seriously injuring the other, a judge ruled Thursday.
Judge Ronald Coen rejected Knight's argument that he acted in self-defense when he was viciously attacked by a group of men outside a Compton burger stand.
Authorities contend Knight intentionally hit the men, killing Terry Carter, 55, and injuring Cle "Bone" Sloan. Knight's attorney, Matt Fletcher, says his client was ambushed and was trying to escape Sloan's attack when he ran over the men.
"There's no intent to kill," said Fletcher, asking the judge to dismiss the case. "There's an intent to survive."
It appeared Knight wasn't trying to flee but was trying to kill someone when he gunned his truck forward, Coen said. The judge threw out one of two hit-and-run counts, saying the charge applies to one event even if there are multiple victims. He also reduced bail from $25 million to $10 million.
The ruling came at the end of a hearing that focused heavily on testimony from Sloan, a former gang member who told detectives he attacked Knight before getting run over.
Sloan testified Monday that he didn't remember the fight and did not want to be a "snitch." Prosecutors played Sloan's statement to police, which offered a lucid, detailed account of the events Jan. 29 that led up to the deadly encounter.
Sloan's testimony demonstrated the difficulty in prosecuting Knight, who has gang ties and a reputation for intimidating witnesses.
"I will not be used to send Suge Knight to prison," Sloan testified, adding that he was only on the stand because he was subpoenaed.
Prosecutors granted Sloan, who's known Knight for decades, limited immunity after he said he intended to invoke his right to avoid self-incrimination.
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.
Sloan, an adviser on the upcoming film "Straight Outta Compton," said he was trying to forget details of the crash, in which he suffered two fractured ankles, a serious cut to his head, two torn knee ligaments and a shoulder injury.
Sloan's memory troubles prompted the judge to comment on his testimony: "I find that this witness is being deceptive."
Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Barnes said that Knight gave up his right to self-defense when he used his car as a deadly weapon in response to a fistfight.
"The minute he backed up and ran over Mr. Sloan, he lost that right," Barnes said.
Knight faces up to life in prison if convicted in the case. He has prior felony convictions for armed robbery and assault with a gun. Knight pleaded no contest in 1995 and was sentenced to five years' probation in an assault on two rap entertainers at a Hollywood recording studio in 1992.
The rap figure was sentenced to prison in February 1997 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 near the Strip. Shakur's slaying remains unsolved.