SAN FERNANDO — Grammy-winning rapper Stanley "Flesh-N-Bone" Howse has reached a deal with prosecutors under which he will avoid jail for allegedly beating up a Chatsworth neighbor over complaints of loud music.
In exchange for no-contest pleas to charges of assault and possessing illegal fireworks, prosecutors offered to drop terrorist-threat and weapons charges against Howse and his brother-in-law, Jamar Tarik Cole, according to both sides.
They agreed to a sentence of three years' probation, said Alan Baum, Howse's lawyer.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Foltz confirmed the deal but would not comment on the sentence, saying that was "up to the court."
Howse and Cole are expected to enter pleas on Friday in San Fernando Superior Court. Baum said the deal is fair because the rapper was provoked by his neighbor and Howse has turned over a new leaf.
Probation will allow him to "get on with his life and put this case behind him," Baum said.
Not so happy is Stephen J. Gambino, the 64-year-old neighbor whom prosecutors say Howse and Cole beat and kicked when he confronted Howse for playing rap music so loud it shook his windows.
"Both my client and I are disappointed, especially since [Howse] was on probation at the time these crimes were committed. It doesn't seem like it's much of a deterrent to him to give him probation," said Barry Mitidiere, who is representing Gambino in a civil suit against Howse, when told of the deal on Tuesday.
Howse was on probation for misdemeanor spousal-abuse charges when he was arrested on the more recent charges last summer.
Baum blamed the rapper's criminal arrests on alcohol abuse and said Howse has since reformed, entering a treatment program in July and donating time and money to children's charities. One of the conditions of Howse's probation is that he continue alcoholism counseling, Baum said.
Sudden stardom led Howse, 24 and a founding member of the rap group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, to drink brandy and 40-ounce bottles of malt liquor every day, Baum said.
"Stanley Howse is a wonderful, sensitive, intelligent young man. I mean, he's a beautiful person, and alcohol was making it impossible for him to be himself," Baum said. "If he'd been sober, none of this would have happened."
He was drunk in the early hours last July 4 when he and Cole were arrested at Howse's rented home on Lassen Street after neighbors complained of gunshots, Baum said. The two men were charged with possessing weapons and explosives--a homemade device investigators said was 270 times more powerful than a typical firecracker--and recklessly firing a shotgun.
They were released on bail, but Howse was rearrested on charges of making terrorist threats after prosecutors said he climbed onto his roof and yelled profanities and threatened Gambino.
"I'm going to buy your house and bury you in the backyard," Howse allegedly yelled. "I'll kill you, your wife and your whole family."
He was also accused of beating Gambino on June 25 after the older man walked over to Howse's home to complain about loud music. But Baum said Gambino had been warned to stay off the property on a previous occasion. Also, Baum alleged, Gambino provoked the attack.
"He stormed into the backyard and started screaming and yelling," Baum said. "He wouldn't leave and they threw him off the property. He shouldn't have gone over there, but they overreacted."
The arrests marked the escalation of already tense relations between Howse and his neighbors. The rapper, his wife, children and bodyguards moved into the $600,000 Hacienda-style house last April. Complaints of loud music soon followed. While in jail on the most recent charges, Howse moved out of the Chatsworth house to appease Gambino, Baum said. Gambino's lawyer, Mitidiere, said he filed suit against Howse about three months ago.
Mitidiere said the beating left Gambino with permanent jaw damage and hearing and vision problems. And after Howse yelled death threats from his roof, Gambino's wife was afraid to live in her house and stayed with friends and relatives until Howse moved out, Mitidiere said.
The Gambinos are asking for more than $1 million in damages. Howse has filed a countersuit claiming Gambino caused him emotional distress, Mitidiere said. A settlement in the civil matter, he said, is nowhere in sight.
Howse's music blends urban hip-hop with harmonies reminiscent of the late Marvin Gaye. He and the other four members of the rap group were raised in poverty and are said to have practiced harmonies while selling crack cocaine on the street corners of Cleveland. They moved to Los Angeles in 1993 with the hope of launching a music career.
After auditioning with the late rapper Eric "Easy-E" Wright, the group was signed to his label, Ruthless Records.
The group's single "Tha Crossroads" won a Grammy last year for best rap performance by a duo or group. Last week, the group was honored as rap group of the year during the American Music Awards, Baum said.