Prosecution Wraps Puffy Case

After three weeks of testimony, the prosecution concludes this case

February 16, 2001 12:00 AM ET

Wardell Fenderson, the key witness for the prosecution's case against Sean "Puffy" Combs, continued his testimony today, with Combs' lawyer Benjamin Brafman trying to find inconsistencies in the driver's statements. For the most part, Fenderson stuck to his story, refusing to budge from his prior testimony that he saw Combs with a gun before the shooting and that Combs tried to bribe him to take the fall for the weapons possession charge afterwards.

Though Brafman found holes in Fenderson's testimony during questioning, they pertained to relatively insubstantial details (the driver could not recall which hand Combs had handcuffed to a pipe at the police precinct). Brafman's cross-examination also seemed to point to an increased possibility that Jennifer Lopez might testify during the defense's presentation. Combs' attorney asked Fenderson questions to establish where Lopez was during the alleged bribery, to which the driver replied she was right behind him, "about two feet away."

Fenderson also admitted that the infamous phone message Combs left for him, which the prosecution is using to establish proof of the bribery charge, could be interpreted as an expression of concern. The tape, which was played in court, contained a message Combs left for Fenderson shortly after their arrest. "I'm just concerned," Combs said on the message. "The news you hit me with earlier really fucked me up. I just want to make you feel, like, comfortable, make your family feel comfortable."

Fenderson testified that he initially thought the "news" that Combs was referring to was the fact that Fenderson had just been fired from his job because of his arrest and publicity from the case. But he said he came to believe that Combs actually meant his refusal to take the bribe. He then interpreted the message as an offer to increase the bribe.

Though Fenderson's testimony was damaging to Combs' case, his lawyers remained optimistic, with Johnny Cochran waxing poetic when he told reporters outside the courthouse that "if it doesn't make sense, you must find for the defense." Combs himself also spoke for the first time since the trial started, saying, "I want to reiterate that I am innocent, and I look forward to next week when we can put forward our case."

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