NEW YORK — A jury acquitted Sean “Puffy” Combs on all charges against him Friday evening, bringing to an end a 15-month ordeal that began after a shooting in a New York nightclub.
Rapper Jamal “Shyne” Barrow was convicted of two counts of assault as well as reckless endangerment and gun possession. But he was cleared of the most serious charge he was facing, attempted murder.
A triumphant shout went up in a packed, heavily guarded courtroom as the jury foreperson read the words “not guilty” five times for Combs.
As the verdict was read, Combs rocked back and forth with emotion, shook his head in relief and finally gave a wide, relaxed grin.
Bodyguard Anthony “Wolf” Jones was cleared of all charges against him.
The jury spent three days deliberating after a six-week trial in which witnesses said Combs waved a gun inside Club New York on December 27, 1999, and then tried to bribe his driver to claim possession of another gun found in his car. The rap mogul fled the club in his Lincoln Navigator with then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez, Jones and driver Wardel Fenderson, who testified for the prosecution.
Prosecutors accused Shyne of shooting three people in the club. His lawyers acknowledged he fired his gun inside the club, but said he acted in self-defense and aimed at the ceiling. The most serious charge of which he was convicted was assault with “a depraved indifference to human life” for the shooting of Natania Reuben, who was hit in the face.
Several prosecution witnesses said they saw Combs with a gun at the club; Combs’ lawyers answered with a battery of witnesses who said he did not appear armed.
Outside the court building, Puffy raised his fist in the air. He spoke briefly, thanking God, his mother, lawyers and fans for their support. “Right now I’m just really emotional, I’m at a loss, I feel blessed,” he said. “Right now I just want to go be with my kids. I’m just grateful.”
His lawyer Johnnie Cochran called the acquittal “exhilarating,” and said the defense “made the right decision” in not calling Lopez to the stand.
Shyne was “certainly disappointed,” his lawyer, Murray Richman, said. “[But] he’s holding his head up.”
The rapper was convicted of second-degree assault against Julius Jones, but acquitted of the same count in the case of Robert Thompson, who suffered a graze wound.
Shyne was taken to the jail known as the Tombs, behind the Manhattan Supreme Court. Richman said he will appeal the verdict.
Prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos did not speak to reporters afterward. But he said Friday morning that he was prepared for the possibility of an acquittal — and he suggested that that verdict would mean the jury had chosen to ignore the evidence.
“None of it may matter. The evidence may not matter. You have to go in prepared for that,” Bogdanos said.
Antonio “L.A.” Reid, president and CEO of Arista Records, the parent company of Combs’ Bad Boy Entertainment label, released a statement immediately after the verdict saying he had “mixed emotions.”
“We are extremely pleased that Sean ’Puffy’ Combs is able to return to his productive work at the helm of … Bad Boy Entertainment. At the same time, we feel saddened by the outcome of the trial as it relates to Jamal ’Shyne’ Barrow. We extend our warmest thoughts to both men as friends and colleagues.”
MTV News will explore the trial of Combs, Barrow and Jones and what the verdict means in “MTV News Now – Puffy On Trial: The Verdict,” a half-hour special debuting on Friday at 10 p.m. (ET).