Judge Allows Puffy's Police Statements As Evidence

Defense lawyers will try to use them to show rapper did not offer bribe to driver.

NEW YORK — Defense lawyers will be allowed to introduce as evidence statements Sean "Puffy" Combs made to police about the gun found in the vehicle he fled the Club New York shootings in, a judge ruled Friday afternoon.

Combs' lawyers, Johnnie Cochran and Benjamin Brafman, intend to use Combs' statements to show that the rapper — who is accused of offering driver Wardel Fenderson a bribe to say the gun was his — spoke to Fenderson about the weapon only because he was trying to determine the truth. They will also use them in defending Combs on the charge of possessing that gun.

"We are very pleased with the court's decision; we think it is a correct statement of the law," Brafman said Friday (January 26). "It will allow the jury to hear all of the information about this case, not just the limited facts that the prosecution wants to introduce."

In court on Tuesday, prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos had called Combs' statements self-serving hearsay, and he asked Judge Charles Solomon not to allow them to be introduced. He suggested that if the defense wanted them on the record, Combs would have to testify. Bogdanos declined to comment on Solomon's ruling, citing the gag order issued in the case.

According to court records, Combs spoke to police after they stopped the Lincoln Navigator he left in, and officers found a 9 mm pistol sticking out from underneath the middle of the vehicle's front seat. Combs asked why his girlfriend, singer/actress Jennifer Lopez, was being arrested and why all four people in the Navigator (Lopez, Combs, Fenderson and bodyguard Anthony "Wolf" Jones) were being arrested.

He also asked what would happen if someone claimed ownership of the weapon, whether Lopez would be released if someone did so and whether it was too late for someone to claim ownership. Combs' lawyers said in court that records also show that police told Combs he and Lopez might not be arrested if he discovered who owned the gun, and that Combs responded with a promise to find out.

After that, Combs began a mission to discover who owned the pistol, Brafman said in court on Tuesday (see "Puffy Tried To Discover Who Owned Gun, Lawyer Says").

Opening arguments in the trial of Combs, Jones and rapper Jamal "Shyne" Barrow are scheduled for Monday.

(Click here for a complete explanation of the charges in the case.)