After 15 months of cordiality or at least silence between Sean "Puffy" Combs and his former co-defendant Jamal "Shyne" Barrow, their relationship appeared to fall apart in public this week.
Shyne, who is in jail awaiting sentencing, lashed out in a interview published Tuesday in New York's Village Voice, accusing Combs of betraying him and lying on the witness stand. Combs, in turn, called those accusations "absolutely ridiculous."
"He proved that he was just there to save himself," Shyne said. "There are no boundaries to what he would do to exonerate himself. I had the Bible in front of me, and I was just praying that he wouldn't continue to lie."
In the Voice interview, Shyne said he was stunned when Puffy testified falsely, he claims that the two men weren't especially close and that they didn't intend to meet up at Club New York on the night of the shootings that sparked their charges.
Combs responded in a statement released by his publicist on Wednesday (March 21), saying, "I want to make it clear ... that I was found innocent of all charges because I am innocent. It is absolutely ridiculous for anyone to blame me for anyone else's actions."
Combs lawyer Benjamin Brafman said Combs' testimony was "completely truthful," and said he and his co-counsel, Johnnie Cochran, spent hours helping Shyne's lawyers mount their defense.
Echoing a prosecution argument, Shyne also alleged that a key defense witness, bouncer Charise Myers, lied when she claimed that she fell on top of Puffy during the shooting at Club New York, and that she saw that the hip-hop mogul did not have a gun. Myers testified that she did see Shyne fire a gun into the ceiling of the club.
"You don't have to prove that I did it in order to prove that you didn't do it," Shyne told the Voice. "She lied for him. Fine. But don't let her testify against me. That's when I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't believe it… I couldn't even look at him anymore."
Brafman called that accusation preposterous: "None of the defense witnesses lied in any way about anything."
After three days of deliberations, a jury on Friday convicted Shyne on assault, reckless endangerment and gun possession charges; he faces up to 25 years in prison and will be sentenced April 16. Combs was acquitted of the gun possession and bribery charges he faced (see "Puffy Combs Acquitted; Shyne Guilty Of Assault, Gun Possession").
Shyne has said that he and Combs were inseparable when he first signed to Combs' Bad Boy Entertainment label. But Combs testified during the trial that he was no closer to Shyne than to any other artist on his label.
In the Voice interview, Shyne complains that Puffy didn't help him pay for his lawyers: "Honestly, he never really did anything to help me after the shooting. As soon as we were indicted, he wanted to keep me away from him."
But bodyguard Anthony "Wolf" Jones, who stood on trial alongside the two men and was also acquitted of all charges, said otherwise.
"Even though Shyne is like my little brother, I do not agree with what he has said," Jones said in a statement released by Bad Boy. "Throughout the case Puff was supportive of both of us and generously helped us with our legal bills. I was right by Puff's side all evening and everything he has said about what happened was completely true. I'm upset for Shyne, but it's crazy to think that Puff could be responsible for anyone else's actions."
After the shooting, Shyne claimed to the Voice, Combs stopped talking to him, and tried to drop plans to release Shyne's self-titled debut album on Bad Boy.
"We would speak only through lawyers. He was afraid to put my album out because he wanted to distance himself from me," the rapper said. "Combs wanted the relationship to be minimal and not have me publicized. I don't think they promoted me as much as they could have and gave everything they could have given because of him."
Shyne's album was released in September 2000 nine months after the Club New York shootings and has been certified gold.
During the seven-week trial, Shyne and Combs were never seen speaking to each other in public, but a source close to Puffy claimed the two men spoke frequently during private lunches.
Both Combs and Brafman expressed sorrow for Shyne.
"I am deeply saddened about Shyne's conviction," Combs said in Wednesday's statement. "I believe that Shyne had no intention of hurting anyone. My own victory is bittersweet because of what happened to Shyne and the victims."
Shyne's spokesperson did not respond to calls for comment on the Voice article and on the response to it from Combs and his associates.