LOS ANGELES — The ownership of Death Row Records was challenged in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday when a judge ordered the rap label's founder Marion "Suge" Knight to turn over documents to a team of his former associates.
Judge Gregory O'Brien's ruling stems from a $75-million lawsuit filed last year by rap entrepreneurs Dick Griffey and Tracy Curry, who claim they helped launch the company in 1991 but were pushed out by Knight and his former partner Andre "Dr. Dre" Young. Knight, who is serving a nine-year prison sentence for a probation violation, is scheduled to give a deposition Aug. 11 in the case.
Meanwhile, federal investigators are trying to determine whether the seed money to launch Death Row came from another source: convicted Los Angeles drug kingpin Michael "Harry-O" Harris, who is serving a 28-year sentence for cocaine dealing and attempted murder.
Harris has stated in a 15-page document that he put up $1.5 million to underwrite the start-up of Death Row in 1991. In recent weeks federal agents interviewed West Coast music executives about Harris and his alleged business ties to Knight, sources said.
Last week, Harris was moved to the Metro Detention Center in Los Angeles and there is speculation in law enforcement circles that he will soon testify before a federal grand jury. Harris could not be reached for comment, but sources close to Harris said Wednesday that he would not testify.
Justice Department officials have routinely declined to confirm or deny the existence of a Death Row investigation.