Despite all the disparate and conflicting testimony, assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos got the last word in the Sean “Puffy” Combs guns and bribery trial in his six-hour, methodical closing argument on Tuesday: “Justice cannot be bought.” Summing up a case that stretched over seven weeks of testimony from sixty witnesses, Bogdanos said Combs used his “money, power and influence” to try to get out of his predicament, decrying “the arrogance of power and the power of celebrity.” He urged the jury to reach a verdict without regard to Combs’ fame, but rather, on the evidence presented.
The assistant District Attorney said the case wasn’t as complicated as the defense made it sound, though a certain amount of befuddlement was expected. Of the defense’s argument that “If it doesn’t make sense, you must find for the defense,” Bogdanos said, “Do not substitute their rhymes for your reason . . . Few things criminals do make sense.” In his attempts to exonerate himself, Combs contributed to the confusion by giving “demonstrably, undeniably false” testimony. Despite extensive witness testimony for both the prosecution and defense, Combs claimed that he didn’t have a dispute with Matthew “Scar” Allen prior to the shooting, didn’t see money thrown and didn’t say anything to the other occupants of the Lincoln Navigator during the police chase. “He dost protest too much and denies what was common knowledge — he denied everything,” Bogdanos said.
It came down to a simple formula, “three defendants . . . three guns,” Bogdanos said, placing three semiautomatic handguns on a rail in front of the jurors as he proceeded to argue that each gun belonged to a different defendant: Combs, his bodyguard Anthony “Wolf” Jones and his protege Jamal “Shyne” Barrow. This was not a case about criminals nor celebrity, though, he reminded the jury. “This is not the Puff Daddy trial,” he said. “This is not the Jennifer Lopez trial. This is not the Jamal ‘Shyne’ Barrow trial. Its about three people who were shot in a club a little over a year ago” one of whom, Natania Reuben, was shot in the face and still has seven bullet fragments lodged in her head.
Combs says he didn’t fire or even have a gun inside Club New York. According to Bogdanos, bullet trajectory evidence suggests otherwise. The prosecutor asserted that if Combs stood where witnesses said he did, that spot matches where a bullet that was fired into the ceiling must have originated, according to the testimony of a ballistics expert. Separate from the illegal handgun found on Barrow’s person, two other guns were found: one in the street by escort driver George Pappas after hearing it thrown out of Combs’ fleeing vehicle, one in the Lincoln Navigator itself. The weapons recovered were virtually “identical twins” sharing the same manufacturer, model number and finish — and contained the same type of ammunition. They must have been bought together, Bogdanos said. The gun found in the car belonged to Jones, the gun thrown outside belonged to Combs, Bogdanos argued, though both can be found guilty of possessing the one found in the SUV.
As for Barrow’s eleventh-hour self defense claim, Bogdanos tore that theory apart, saying that no testimony ever showed that Barrow had reason to believe his life was in danger. (Shooting victim Julius Jones had testified that the men who argued with Combs prior to the shooting had threatened to kill both rappers, but under New York law, words alone are not considered enough to justify the use of deadly force.) Bogdanos suggested Barrow was defending his mentor, not himself, because Combs had been “disrespected” when money was thrown at him. Testimony from a defense witness about a menacing man with braids who fired first — an unidentified shooter — was fabricated as a distraction, Bogdanos said, turning the jury’s attention towards the testimony of five witnesses who saw Barrow fire into the crowd, not at the ceiling or into the air as his lawyers argued. “It does not matter that he missed his intended target,” Bogdanos said.
After receiving instructions from Judge Charles Solomon (that are expected to take about two hours), the jurors, who are to be sequestered, are expected to begin deliberations midday Wednesday.