Diddy's Assault Case: What Happens Next? Legal Experts Weigh In

Meanwhile, alleged victim appears in New York court on unrelated charge, but (as video shows) declines persistent requests for comment.

NEW YORK — Steven Acevedo, the man Sean "Diddy" Combs allegedly punched during a spat at a New York nightclub last weekend, ducked MTV News cameras Thursday morning (October 18) as he made his way inside the Manhattan Criminal Court to answer to an unrelated misdemeanor charge of third-degree possession of a forged instrument.

Acevedo refused to discuss the incident with MTV News' Kim Stolz as he rushed past paparazzi outside the courthouse. Acevedo was escorted into the building by one of his attorneys.

According to a representative for the New York Police Department, an incident did take place early Saturday morning inside Kiosk, a store located in New York's SoHo neighborhood. An eyewitness to the incident told MTV News that Combs and Acevedo exchanged heated words before the rapper struck Acevedo with two consecutive, rapid punches. On Tuesday morning, a publicist for Combs dismissed reports that the club clash involved a woman and claimed the two men have known each other for more than a decade. That same day, Combs' lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, refuted reports that said his client would be turning himself over to the police and that he would be subsequently charged with misdemeanor assault (see "Diddy Won't Be Turning Himself In To Police, Lawyer Says").

Although details regarding the exact nature of Acevedo's offense were unavailable at press time, court records indicate he was arrested by police August 27 for criminal possession of a forged instrument (which could be a document). According to the state penal code's definition of the charge, one is guilty of such a crime "when, with knowledge that it is forged and with intent to defraud, deceive or injure another, [one] utters or possesses a forged instrument."

Less than a week after the assault at Kiosk, Combs has yet to be charged with any crime. And despite erroneous online and print reports of a possible out-of-court settlement between Combs and Acevedo (see "Diddy, Alleged Victim Have Not Reached Settlement, Contrary To Reports"), Acevedo's attorney, Mark Heller, told MTV News on Tuesday that such claims were "very naive and certainly erroneous."

He added that whether Combs is arrested or not for the incident is out of his client's hands and rests with the detectives investigating the case and the district attorneys who could bring an indictment. "This is something that is now in the mechanics of the judicial system," he said.

But Gerald Shargel, a professor of evidence and criminal procedure at Brooklyn Law School who has defended the likes of Murder Inc. Records head Irv Gotti as well as convicted mobster John Gotti, said it's not that simple.

"As a matter of law, it is out of his hands, because this is not an offense against Acevedo — it's an offense against the State of New York, and the State of New York is the plaintiff in the case," Shargel explained. "Having said that, though, on a practical level, the complexion of a criminal case may often change, where the victim is not interested in pursuing it, and the prosecutors may take the attitude that, 'If he's satisfied, we're satisfied.' Now, having said that, prosecutors often frown on the idea of buying your way out of a criminal charge. There's a thin line between settling a case and paying off a witness."

James Cohen, a professor of criminal law at Fordham Law, agreed with Shargel, that whether or not Combs is charged is not up to Acevedo — but that doesn't mean other options are not available.

"The charging party is the state, so it's the state that decides whether the charges are dropped," he said. "Certainly, the desire by the complainant to not pursue it would be a factor in moving the state to decide to drop the charges, unless they felt he had been threatened to drop the charges. Threats are not money, if you get my point.

"He could say, 'I don't want to proceed,' and the district attorney could say, 'OK, fine,' or, 'I don't care,' " Cohen continued. "But his cooperation is pretty important. His willingness to participate could ultimately determine the outcome of the case. The district attorney has the power to subpoena him and put him in a grand jury, and if [Acevedo] decides to ignore the subpoena, that's going to be a problem for him. But, of course, memories can get a little fuzzy — there are lots of ways to tell a story."

Cohen said that Acevedo could "sway [the story] to be truthful, or could color things in [Combs'] favor — but it's only the district attorney who can decide to drop the criminal charges."

According to Cohen, the state's investigation into the assault shouldn't take much longer. He also said that, if Diddy is convicted, it will almost definitely lead to civil proceedings. "If there's a conviction, he'll have an easy civil judgment," he said.