[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at 1999's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Wednesday, Sept. 8.]
NEW YORK Sean "Puffy" Combs pleaded guilty to harassment
Wednesday morning (Sept. 8) in a case in which he had been charged with
assaulting record executive Steve Stoute with a chair, a telephone and
a champagne bottle.
The superstar rapper and producer was ordered to participate in a one-day
anger-management program administered by the New York County district
attorney's office. Upon completion of the program, the charge will be
wiped from his record.
Combs, whose second album, Forever, will fall to #8 this week on
the Billboard 200 albums chart after debuting last week at
#2 had faced up to seven years in prison after being charged with
felony assault for the April 15 incident. He admitted to the reduced
charge after what his lawyer, Harvey Slovis, said was seven weeks of
Combs' bodyguard Paul Offord also pleaded guilty to harassment and
received the same sentence.
"You have a very interesting history," New York County Criminal Court
Judge Martin Murphy told Combs during the two-minute proceeding. "Let's
hope we never meet again."
Murphy also handled a case stemming from a stampede at a 1991 charity
basketball game at City University of New York in which nine people were
killed. Combs and rapper Heavy D had organized the game.
Combs, dressed in a black suit and sunglasses, walked out of court with
his head down. He immediately left the courthouse for a press conference
to promote the Oct. 9 NetAid concerts in London, Geneva and East Rutherford,
"He wants to move on," Slovis said outside the courtroom. "He wants to
put this thing behind him."
Combs has said he was angry at Stoute, who is president of Interscope
Records' urban-music division and a consultant to rapper Nas, over the
video for Nas' "Hate Me Now" (RealAudio
excerpt), in which Combs appears. In the initial video, which
premiered on MTV the day Combs confronted Stoute in the latter's New
York office, Combs was shown hanging from a cross in one scene.
The scene was later edited out of the video, and Combs apologized to
Stoute in June.
Stoute could not be reached for comment Wednesday, and his publicist did
not return calls.
"It was so upsetting to [Puffy] because he is very religious," Slovis
said Wednesday of the video.
Combs pleaded guilty to aggravated harassment. Wayne Brison, a spokesperson
for the New York County district attorney, said that means physical
contact with the intent to startle or threaten.
Despite the second-week sales dip for Combs' latest album from
more than 200,000 copies sold during its first week to just under 119,000
in its second hip-hop followers said Wednesday he remains a viable
Tracey Cloherty, program director for WQHT-FM, a New York hip-hop station,
said Combs' slipping sales haven't deterred her from playing his new
single, "PE 2000" (RealAudio
excerpt), a remake of the 1987 Public Enemy song "Public Enemy
"It's not hitting as well as the first album, according to your numbers,"
she said. "But I still think it's a good album."
Combs' first album, No Way Out (1997), sold more than 500,000
copies its first week and has been certified six-times platinum. It
spawned two #1 singles, "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" and "I'll Be Missing
You," as well as the popular "It's All About the Benjamins" (RealAudio
excerpt of remix).
Hedi Kim, general manager of Tower Records in New York's Greenwich Village,
said the drop-off between Combs' two albums is the same any performer of
his stature would experience. No one, she said, remains as popular as
Combs was two years ago
Combs is scheduled to perform at NetAid on Oct. 9 in East Rutherford,
N.J. The bill also includes Wyclef Jean, U2 singer Bono, Mary J. Blige,
Busta Rhymes and ex-Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.
(Staff Writer Brian Hiatt contributed to this report.)