Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Rappers Raise New Questions in Knight Case

Courts: Men assaulted by Death Row founder say prosecutor Longo urged them to settle civil suit. He denies it, and earlier said they undermined criminal case.

March 04, 1997|CHUCK PHILIPS and ALAN ABRAHAMSON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Two men assaulted five years ago by rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight say that prosecutor Lawrence M. Longo urged them to accept a settlement in a civil suit that undermined the criminal case against Knight.

George Stanley and Lynwood Stanley, brothers and aspiring rap artists, also say that Longo's son got a job working for the lawyer who drafted their civil settlement and that his daughter auditioned to appear on their album, which Longo knew was to be released by Knight's company, Death Row Records.

The statements by the rappers raise new questions about the handling of Knight's case, which resulted in a controversial plea bargain in 1995.

Longo is expected to be fired this week by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office because his family's financial ties to Knight created the appearance of a conflict of interest. Knight cut a record deal last year with Longo's 18-year-old daughter and lived in a Malibu Colony home owned by Longo's family while the prosecutor was overseeing Knight's case.

Longo has said that those financial dealings with Knight came well after the plea bargain and therefore created no conflict for him. He denied urging the rappers to settle their civil case. But the statements by the two rappers suggest that Longo exploited contacts in the Knight case to further his daughter's singing career well before the plea bargain.

"I think Larry Longo used his position for his own benefit," George Stanley said. "I'm disgusted by the way this whole thing turned out. I think it's corrupt. We were victims of a crime. We trusted the guy. He told us justice would be served. I feel the system let us down. Looking back on it now, I think Larry Longo used us and Suge for his own purposes."

Westwood attorney Donald R. Wager, who represents Longo, called his client's contacts with individuals associated with Knight's case "harmless."

"Every contact here was innocent and only happened because the people knew each other," Wager said. "Larry never had any intent to corrupt anyone or take advantage of any relationship and nobody had any intention of taking advantage of his position. Larry met these people through his work on the case and that's how contact in areas outside of the case developed. The pattern naturally flows from the fact that people often become involved with people they know."

Longo was assigned to Knight's case five years ago after the rap executive was charged in connection with a July 13, 1992, assault against the Stanley brothers. According to a search warrant affidavit filed in 1992, the brothers were attacked by Knight, who ordered them to their knees at gunpoint and fired one shot near them. Knight then beat Lynwood Stanley with the gun, then ordered both brothers to take off their pants.

On April 8, 1994, the brothers signed a $1-million recording contract with Death Row--part of the settlement of a civil suit the brothers had brought after the 1992 attack. The settlement required the brothers to provide testimonials in the criminal case confirming that they had resolved their differences with Knight.

In an October interview with The Times, Longo complained that the civil settlement sabotaged his chance of taking Knight's case to trial. He said, "After the Stanley brothers took the settlement, there wasn't much left to the case. They screwed me. Those two guys were my last hope."

Frank Oliver, a senior investigator who worked with Longo on Knight's case, said he "never once heard Larry urge the brothers to settle."

But the Stanley brothers give a different account, a version backed up by sources at Death Row Records.

"Now that he is in trouble, he is acting like we ruined the case," said Lynwood Stanley. "But that is the exact opposite of what he told us when we accepted the offer. . . . If he had told us that our settlement was going to ruin the criminal case, we would have never taken it."

Stanley added, "He was not opposed to the settlement. He encouraged us to take it. He told us he was happy about it."

The Stanley brothers said they had not been interviewed by either the district attorney's office or the state attorney general's office, which is conducting a separate investigation of Longo.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Steve Sowders, who has headed the district attorney's investigation of Longo, declined to comment Monday.

A source at the attorney general's office involved in the investigation of Longo declined to comment Monday.

The Stanley brothers say that three months after the civil settlement, in July 1994, while the criminal case against Knight was still pending, Longo asked to bring his teenage daughter, Gina, by for an audition at the Burbank studio where they were recording. The rappers say that Longo, his wife, Aelina, and Gina came to the studio and played them a tape of Gina singing.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|