Puffy Takes the Stand

Monday, March 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK – Rapper Sean "Puffy" Combs, taking the witness stand at his gun possession trial, testified today he thought he was the intended victim when shooting broke out at a Times Square nightclub.

"Do you know who was being shot at?" asked his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman.

"No. I thought I was being shot at," Combs said. "My hands were up. I started to go down. Everybody started falling all over each other."

Among the people falling on top of him, he added, was his bodyguard, Anthony "Wolf" Jones, who is also charged with gun possession.

Combs said the gunfire rang out shortly after Jones accompanied him and his then-girlfriend, singer-actress Jennifer Lopez, from the VIP section of Club New York to the exit early on Dec. 27, 1999.

"I had felt the shots were for me," Combs added. "As fast as I could get down there, I was just trying to get away from danger."

When cross-examination got under way in state court, Combs was questioned about a 1995 incident involving a newspaper photographer that resulted in a guilty plea by Combs. Combs denied that a gun was involved in that case.

Prosecutors allege Combs was illegally carrying a gun in the club. Combs is also charged with trying to bribe his chauffeur into accepting responsibility for a handgun allegedly thrown from the Lincoln Navigator as it drove off. Combs on Thursday denied trying to bribe the man.

A third defendant, Jamal "Shyne" Barrow, 21, is charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting three bystanders inside the club.

The shots rang out just after Combs and his entourage walked past a large circular bar in the center of the club. At that point, they encountered a man, later identified as Matthew "Scar" Allen, who Combs said was "mouthing off" at him.

"I could tell that what he was saying wasn't nice," Combs said. "I could tell by his body language and facial expressions."

Combs said he didn't know the man. A security guard, Sharise Myers, testified Monday she tapped Combs on the shoulder and told him, "You don't need this," to encourage him to ignore Allen and leave.

Combs testified that seconds after Myers tapped him on the shoulder, four shots rang out and he heard someone scream, "Get Puffy out of here!"

In the ensuing chaos, Combs said he became separated from Lopez, but eventually he, Lopez and two bodyguards left in the Navigator driven by Wardell Fenderson.

Fenderson has testified that he saw Combs put a gun in his waistband and that Combs offered him money to take the rap.

But Combs denied this. Asked by Brafman, "Did you offer Fenderson $50,000?"

"Absolutely not," he said.

"Did you offer him a diamond ring?" as a bribe, Brafman asked.

"Absolutely not."

Later, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos cross-examined Combs, asking him about December 1995 case in which he confronted a New York Post photographer, Gary Miller. Miller was taking pictures of Combs' cars when Combs demanded, and was given, the film.

Bogdanos asked Combs whether he had threatened Miller with a gun after surrounding him with security guards.

"That did not happen. That's absolutely false," Combs said.

"Without any threats, without any guns, without any people surrounding him, he just handed over the film?" Bogdanos said.

"Yes," Combs replied.

After his guilty plea to criminal mischief, Combs was sentenced to probation and fined $1,000. A judge ruled last month that prosecutors could question Combs about the Miller incident if he took the stand in his own defense. Some other aspects of Combs' past were ruled out of bounds.