Combs' Lawyer Blasts Prosecution Witness, Gag Order Stays

Shooting victim's credibility challenged; judge still refuses to allow lawyers in rap mogul's gun possession case to talk to press.

NEW YORK — Sean "Puffy" Combs' lawyer Benjamin Brafman called one of the prosecution's lead witnesses a liar and a fraud during a pretrial hearing in Combs' gun possession case Thursday (January 11), as he unsuccessfully petitioned for the partial lifting of a gag order that prevents lawyers in the case from talking to the press.

Brafman has been prevented by that order from responding in the press to shooting victim Natania Reuben's claim that she saw Combs with a gun during the December 1999 shooting at Club New York that led to his charges. But he used his time in open court — where he was free to speak — to slam her anticipated testimony as unreliable.

"I can [present] 30 witnesses, all with impeccable credentials, who'll say they were in Club New York and this woman is a liar," Brafman said. "This woman is a complete fraud — everything about her is a fraud."

Brafman — who didn't mention Reuben's appearance on "The People's Court" before the shooting, which was disclosed by MTV News on Tuesday — also claimed to have unspecified information that "could put [Reuben] in jail." He also scoffed at Reuben's public statements that she feared for her life because of threats made in connection with the case.

Reuben's lawyer, Debra Reiser, did not respond to a request for comment on Brafman's allegations by press time. Reuben, who was shot in the face during the Club New York incident, has filed a $130 million lawsuit that names Combs — along with bodyguard Anthony "Wolf" Jones and rapper Shyne (born Jamal Barrow), who face weapons and attempted murder charges, respectively — in connection with the incident. Jones and Combs also face bribery charges.

The prosecution will present multiple witnesses who will back Reuben's claim that Combs had a gun at the time of the shooting, prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos said. "I have not interviewed one single person who has told me that Mr. Combs did not have a gun in his hands at the time of the shooting," he added. Brafman, who has asked Bogdanos for a list of all witnesses interviewed by the prosecution, immediately disputed that assertion.

In response to a Wednesday New York Daily News report that prosecutors have a "secret witness" who will testify that they saw Combs fire a gun into the ceiling of Club New York, Brafman claimed to have "a lot of secret witnesses who blow the prosecution's case out of the water."

Accusing the prosecution and law enforcement sources of attempting to taint the jury pool by leaking information to the press in such stories, Brafman asked Judge Charles Solomon to modify the gag order he imposed last week by allowing lawyers to respond to statements from witnesses and others not bound by the order.

Bogdanos, whose request had initiated the gag order, responded by accusing Combs of "play[ing] the media to his advantage, like an instrument," and noted the numerous interviews in which the hip-hop impresario had discussed the facts of the case.

After hearing the arguments, Judge Solomon declined to lift the gag order.

Combs, in a sober, gray pinstriped suit, frequently whispered to his lawyers during the hearing, but mostly he sat stoically. He yawned and stretched ostentatiously during a discussion of jury selection, which is scheduled to begin Wednesday.

Brafman's co-counsel, Johnnie Cochran — who helped win O.J. Simpson's acquittal on murder charges — sat silent throughout the hearing.