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Puffy's Defense Begins

As defense starts in Puffy case, new allegations of bribery surface

February 22, 2001 12:00 AM ET

Though the defense has vigorously denied allegations in a New York Post article that prosecutors were investigating Sean "Puffy" Combs for witness tampering, the accusations appear to carry more weight, according to documents made public Wednesday. Although he's on trial for trying to bribe driver Wardell Fenderson, Combs is also accused of trying to bribe four other potential witnesses -- Matthew "Scar" Allen and three of his family members, mother Shirley and brothers James and Steve -- though he has not been charged yet with doing so.

Documents released included a sworn statement Allen gave to the Manhattan District Attorney's office following the shooting and a transcript of a private court proceeding held last month, painting a damaging picture of Combs trying to buy Allen's silence. Allen's handwritten statement (dated January 3, 2000) says that he saw both Combs and his co-defendant Jamal "Shyne" Barrow firing guns inside Club New York. In his statement, Allen says that Combs knocked a glass of champagne out of his hand, causing the fight between the two of them.

"Puffy was saying goodbye and high-fiving everybody. At one point he reached over me and knocked me and the glass I was holding onto the bar," Allen wrote in the statement. "At the time I didn't realize who it was that had just knocked me and so I turned around and pushed him off of me and realized it was Puffy. He started saying, 'What's up, what's up?' and I said, 'Fuck you.' At just about the same time, one of the guys against the bar threw money at Puffy. Shyne then dipped down and came back up with a gun and started firing. At that point, Puffy had a gun in his right hand as I was running out. I could see both Shyne and Puffy firing guns."

According to the transcript from last month's court proceedings, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos claims Combs approached Allen at a party and told him, "Give your number to my man Wolf [co-defendant Anthony Jones]. I've already got a bribery on me. My boys will take care of you, but you've got to understand it's not coming from me." Apparently, the offer wasn't accepted, as no money exchanged hands, Bogdanos said.

Though the prosecution has already rested, Judge Charles Solomon ruled that Allen could testify as a rebuttal witness after the defense has a chance to present its case. Allen's family expressed concern of potential retaliation by Combs and his camp if Allen did testify, according to a letter to Solomon from Bogdanos, who said the prosecution offered to relocate Allen's mother at the DA's expense (she declined). Bogdanos withdrew subpoenas for Allen's family after they said they would invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to answer questions.

Though he was supposed to be a witness for the defense, Club New York owner Michael Bergos added fuel to the bribery charges when he testified Thursday that Combs and his camp implied that they would "throw business" his way if he helped them out on the witness stand. On cross-examination, Bergos said that after talking with Combs and his lawyer Johnnie Cochran, he was left with the "feeling" that "when all these things cleared up they would throw business" in his direction. Bergos testified on direct examination that he didn't see a gun in Combs' hands, but rather, a glass in one hand and a champagne bottle in another. Bergos filed a $1.8 million civil lawsuit against the co-defendants for damage suffered to the property and reputation of the club.

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