NEW YORK Sean "Puffy" Combs' acquittal on criminal charges stemming from the Club New York shootings should mean the end of hundreds of millions worth of civil suits against him, his civil lawyer predicted Monday (March 19).
"We want to let the dust settle and then make the motion to dismiss," attorney Luke Pittoni said. "There's absolutely no merit [to the lawsuits]."
But if necessary, Pittoni and Combs are ready to go to court to fight the suits, the lawyer said.
Shooting victims Natania Reuben, Julius Jones and Robert Thompson have each filed multimillion-dollar lawsuits against Combs, as has his driver, Wardel Fenderson, and the owner of Club New York, Michael Bergos. The three victims don't accuse Combs of shooting them, but they do blame him for indirectly causing their injuries through his alleged involvement in the argument that sparked the gunplay.
Two of the lawyers behind those suits said they have no intention of backing down, despite a jury's rejection of claims that Combs was involved in the shootings.
"Mr. Fenderson believes what was done to him was wrong he's ready to go forward and have his day in court," said the driver's lawyer, Lawrence Bernstein.
Fenderson testified that he saw Combs with a gun before he entered Club New York, and that the rap mogul tried to bribe him to claim ownership of another gun later found in the Lincoln Navigator he drove that night.
But Fenderson's lawsuit focuses only on the flight from police after the shooting, which the driver claims caused him emotional distress.
Pittoni dismissed that claim as ridiculous. "Fenderson has a terrible burden [in proving his case].What is the mental distress of driving 11 blocks?"
"It isn't the three minutes in the car, it's what happened to him in the 14 months since then," Bernstein shot back.
The civil suits may have worked in Combs' favor in his criminal trial, allowing his lawyers to argue that Jones, Reuben and Fenderson were hoping to profit when they testified that the rap mogul had a gun on the night of the Club New York shootings.
Combs' co-defendant, Jamal "Shyne" Barrow, is also named in several of the lawsuits, but he has more pressing concerns. Shyne, who faces up to 25 years in prison after being convicted on assault, reckless endangerment and gun possession charges, will be sentenced April 16.
In a statement released Monday, Combs called his trial "the most difficult time in my life," adding, "I feel truly blessed that this ordeal is over."
He also told Time magazine this weekend that the trial has changed his life: "I've matured. This whole thing has made me deeper. It's not what it was about before."
Lawyers for Bergos, Jones and Reuben could not be reached for comment.