NEW YORK -- Superstar rapper/producer Sean "Puffy" Combs posted
$15,000 bail and was released Friday evening (April 16) after having
been arraigned on assault and criminal-mischief charges connected with
the alleged beating of rapper Nas' manager, Steve Stoute, Thursday.
Combs entered no formal plea during the proceeding in Manhattan Criminal Court, during which it was alleged that the rapper and two accomplices beat the victim with a telephone, a chair and a champagne bottle. Combs' next court date is June 24. His attorney, Jay Goldberg, declined to comment on the case.
Combs faces up to seven years in prison if convicted, said Gloria
Montealegre, a spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney.
Combs wore a black suit, sunglasses and a diamond earring to his arraignment. He maintained a calm, businesslike demeanor during the hearing, and he signed a few autographs for spectators.
Earlier Friday before surrendering to police, Combs appeared on New York cable TV station NY1 and said of his involvement: "I heard that rumor, too. I don't even know how it got started."
The New York Daily News quoted unnamed sources as saying Combs
was upset with the way he was portrayed in the new Nas video. The alleged
assault is said to have taken place about 90 minutes after the debut of
the "Hate Me Now" clip on cable music channel MTV. Police spokesperson
Jerry Varson said Friday morning that Stoute was beaten for "unknown reasons."
Stoute, 28, is also a senior executive for Interscope's urban music department.
Combs was charged with assault in the second degree, a felony, because a deadly weapon was allegedly used in the attack, Montealegre said. Combs, along with two other men who have yet to be identified or arrested, is accused of kicking Stoute and hitting him with a chair, a telephone and a champagne bottle.
Stoute was in a crouching position during the alleged attack, and could not see who actually attacked him, Assistant District Attorney Ina Schrel said during the arraignment.
The criminal-mischief charge, a misdemeanor, was brought against Combs because he allegedly destroyed a telephone in the attack, and damaged other office equipment by turning over desks, according to Montealegre.
Schrel said Stoute is being examined by a private physician to see if his elbow is broken. St. Clare's Hospital, where Stoute was examined, refused to release information on his injuries, citing patient privacy concerns.
Sony Records, Nas' label, did not return calls, and a spokesperson for Combs' Bad Boy Entertainment said the label had no comment on the incident.
Combs is known for such pop hits as "I'll Be Missing You" and "All About the Benjamins" and has produced tracks by artists ranging from Mariah Carey to Mase.
The clip for "Hate Me Now" (RealAudio excerpt), which debuted on the MTV show "Total Request Live," stars Nas as a Christ-like figure who is crucified and stoned. Combs, who raps in the song in a distorted voice, reportedly also is depicted as being crucified. At one point in the video, he appears to make an obscene gesture to the camera.
The song is from Nas' third album, I Am ..., which debuted this week at #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, having sold 470,941 copies its first week in stores.
Hype Williams directed the clip, which begins with a disclaimer saying Nas and Combs did not intend to defame Jesus Christ. Williams could not be reached for comment through his production company, Big Dog Films.
MTV pulled the video from rotation after the attack. The cable station's spokesperson, Greg Baldwin, said the network did so at the request of both Bad Boy Entertainment and Columbia Records; he did not say why the labels made the request.
"We are awaiting the arrival of a new video that has been approved by both parties," Baldwin said.
It is possible the attack, or at least Combs' alleged presence, may have been captured on videotape, said a former employee of Geffen Records, which shares a building with Universal.
"There are cameras at every entrance. ... As far as I know, Stoute had
cameras in his office. It's not unusual. I would think every big executive
would want to have cameras in their office," the former employee said,
on condition of anonymity.
A Universal spokesperson who asked not to be named declined to comment on that possibility. He offered a prepared statement: "We are currently investigating this incident. We view this as a serious matter and the safety of our employees is of utmost importance."
Although Combs has maintained a positive public image through his music and entrepreneurial pursuits, he has run into legal trouble in the past. Schrel pointed out during the arraignment that the rapper has a criminal record: In 1996 he pled guilty to a misdemeanor criminal-mischief charge, she said. Schrel said Combs had originally faced robbery charges in the incident, though she did not elaborate on the circumstances.
Also, a judge ruled last year that Combs was legally responsible for a stampede that killed nine people and injured 29 at a 1991 charity basketball game he helped organize.
After the late superstar rapper Tupac Shakur was attacked by a gunman in 1993, Shakur suggested in interviews that Bad Boy, and by extension Combs, were involved in or had knowledge of the attack. Combs has repeatedly denied any involvement.
The alleged attack on Stoute is the latest in a series of violent incidents in the worlds of rap and rock.
In a similar incident in November of last year, Jesse Washington, then the editor of hip-hop magazine Blaze, was assaulted by a group of men in Blaze's offices. The perpetrators allegedly included Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie, who is a member of Combs' stable of producers.
The hip-hop community was recently hit with two murders -- rapper Big L was killed in Harlem in February, and Lost Boyz rapper Freaky Tah was murdered in Queens in March, allegedly as a result of a feud with a local group police characterize as wannabe rappers.
In 1997 members of the Wu-Tang Clan were accused of attacking a radio promotions employee, after he revealed the location of a private party in a broadcast.
Rock also has seen its share of violent incidents in recent months. In November of last year, Craig Marks, then an editor at Spin magazine, accused shock-rocker Marilyn Manson of ordering bodyguards to assault him.
Rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy, who said he heard about the incident involving Nas' manager on the radio, said Friday, "I can't imagine Puffy beating anybody up. Puffy reminds me of an altar boy, a church mouse."