As he nears the end of his trial, Sean “Puffy” Combs appears to have a most unlikely supporter — longtime rival Marion “Suge” Knight.
The imprisoned Death Row Records chief said from his jail cell Thursday that he wishes he could help his fellow rap mogul, who was once considered his sworn enemy in one of hip-hop’s most storied feuds.
“Prison’s not the place for Puffy,” Knight said. “I think if I had a chance and I could talk to the jury, I’d say, ‘Look, before you send this guy to prison, look at the consequences. Prison could destroy this guy.’”
In 1999, Los Angeles police named Knight a suspect in the 1997 murder of the Notorious B.I.G., Combs’ best friend and the biggest star on his Bad Boy label. A police spokesperson could not confirm whether Knight remains a suspect in the investigation.
Knight has been following Combs’ case from Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, California, where he is serving part of a nine-year sentence for violating probation on an assault charge.
Combs is on trial for gun possession and bribery charges in connection with a December 1999 incident in which three people were wounded by gunfire at a Manhattan nightclub.
Though he admitted Puffy is “definitely not my friend,” Knight said the rapper is “a nice guy” and that he hopes Combs will avoid prison time for the sake of his family and the people he employs.
“He could do a lot more good not being in prison than being in prison. One thing about prison, everybody can’t do this time. I thank God that he made me a man who, if I’m incarcerated, I’m still gonna be the same person I am. For Puffy, I think it will be all bad for him. For one, he’s a small guy — by him being a small guy, there’s probably gonna be guys trying to prey on him.”
Knight declined to speculate on the outcome of the case, but pointed to evidence that could incriminate Combs, including the testimony of his driver Wardel Fenderson and a statement presented in court from Matthew “Scar” Allen, whom Combs allegedly fought with just before the shootings. “Any time you have your own people telling on you, that’s a bad situation,” Knight said.
“I’m not inside his head — I’m not trying to be — but some of these guys, they carry a gun ’cause they wanna be a thug, they wanna be a tough guy, maybe to impress the girls. The majority of women, regardless of how you look at it, they like that type of man, or the wildness of a man.”
Knight clarified that he wasn’t suggesting that Combs should get off the hook completely, but that the jury should consider a lesser punishment than prison time, such as a “ridiculous fine.” “I think once he gets out of this situation, the guy’s scared straight. They don’t have to worry about him getting a speeding ticket if he’s learned his lesson.”
Bad Boy and Death Row have had a notoriously rocky relationship, typified by the heavily hyped rivalry between Biggie and late Death Row rapper Tupac Shakur.
The two murders, which happened six months apart, provoked debate in the music industry and the rap community, with some linking the deaths to the so-called East Coast/West Coast war.
In 1994, Shakur accused Biggie, Puffy and others affiliated with Bad Boy of being involved in an attack on Shakur in New York. Combs has repeatedly denied the allegations.
A spokesperson for Combs could not be reached for comment.
Combs and his co-defendants, Jamal “Shyne” Barrow and bodyguard Anthony “Wolf” Jones, were in court Thursday afternoon for legal arguments outside the presence of the jury in the case. They have the day off Friday; closing arguments are scheduled for Monday.