The record executive whom Sean "Puffy" Combs was charged with attacking in a New York office last month said Friday (May 21) he believed Combs and two other men wanted to kill him.
"I feared for my life," said Steve Stoute, president of Interscope's urban-music division and a consultant to platinum rapper Nas. Prosecutors have charged that Stoute was beaten with a telephone, a chair and a champagne bottle April 16.
Stoute gave interviews to various newspaper reporters Thursday; those were his first public comments about the alleged beating. Combs' lawyer, Jay Goldberg, charged those interviews were part of a "shakedown."
Goldberg said Stoute's lawyers hinted in late April that he would stop cooperating with criminal investigators in exchange for a $50 million settlement, an offer he said was later dropped to $12 million.
"I never ever asked Puffy for $12 million or $50 million," Stoute said. " I don't even know what he's talking about."
Police charged Combs and Paul Offord, the head of the superstar rapper's security detail, with felony assault and criminal mischief after the alleged April 16 beating. If convicted, the two men each could face seven years in prison. A hearing in the case is scheduled for June 24, and Stoute was quoted in the Los Angeles Times Thursday saying he expects to testify before a grand jury in the next two weeks.
Stoute broke his silence in the case in interviews that appeared in the Times and two New York newspapers Friday.
"I see [Combs] as a gangster in the music business," he was quoted as saying. "Everybody is afraid of him. This is a guy who cries about his friend [murdered rapper Notorious] B.I.G. publicly and promotes peace, but he has a dark history."
The 29-year-old Combs is the president of Bad Boy Records and a multiplatinum rapper under the name Puff Daddy. His hits have included "I'll Be Missing You" (RealAudio excerpt) a tribute to late rapper Notorious B.I.G., a close friend of Combs, and "It's All About the Benjamins" (RealAudio excerpt).
Stoute, 28, told reporters that Combs and two bodyguards walked into his office at Universal Records in midtown Manhattan on the afternoon of April 16 and severely beat him. Combs was angry because of a scene in the video for Nas' single "Hate Me Now," in which Combs was shown hanging from a cross, according to those accounts. Though Combs collaborated on the song and participated in the video, he apparently had second thoughts about the scene.
The video premiered on MTV the day of the alleged beating and was pulled from MTV's rotation shortly afterward.
Stoute told the Times the rapper walked into his office, punched him in the face and hit him on the head with a telephone.
"The next minute I'm down on the floor and Puffy and his guys are kicking and pounding me," the paper reported him saying. "One of them picks up a chair and throws it at me. Then Puffy throws my desk over and they just walk out like nothing happened."
Goldberg declined to comment on the specifics of the charges against Combs, saying only, "I'm confident that the justice system will work to bring about a proper result."
He said he informed prosecutors of Stoute's alleged settlement offer, which he said would constitute extortion.
Gloria Montealegre, a spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney, said the office couldn't comment on grand jury proceedings, which are considered confidential.
Stoute, who calls himself Nas' best friend, said he's not surprised by reports that Combs and Nas remain on cordial terms.
"[Nas] has to keep his business going," Stoute said. He added that he hasn't discussed the alleged beating with Nas (born Nasir Jones), although the friends remain in close contact. Stoute was Nas' manager until he left Sony Music, Nas' label, to take the Interscope job last year.
Goldberg said he expects Stoute to sue Combs, but Stoute wouldn't say whether he had such plans.
Although Combs has maintained a positive public image through his music and entrepreneurial pursuits, he has run into legal trouble in the past. In 1996 he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor criminal-mischief charge.
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. The decision paved the way for victims' families to seek damages from the rapper.
After rapper Tupac Shakur was attacked by a gunman in 1993, Shakur suggested in interviews that Bad Boy, and by extension, Combs, was involved in or knew about the attack. Combs repeatedly has denied any involvement. Shakur was murdered three years later.