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Figure in B.I.G. Case Tells of Offer

Ex-officer says lawyers for the rap star's family offered inducements if he would help their case. The attorneys deny it.

July 01, 2005|Chuck Philips | Times Staff Writer

A former Los Angeles police officer says that lawyers who are suing the city over the killing of rap star Notorious B.I.G., and who have accused him of arranging the murder, offered him financial inducements to help them win their case.

David A. Mack, who has long denied any role in the 1997 murder, said in an interview that the lawyers urged him to invoke the 5th Amendment in court and refuse to answer questions about the killing so he would appear guilty.

In return, Mack said, the lawyers told him he would not have to pay any damages awarded by the jury because they would seek payment only from the city.

Mack said they also offered to help him bring his own suit against the city later for failing to provide him adequate legal representation in the case. He said they suggested that he could win millions of dollars.

The wrongful-death suit by the family of Notorious B.I.G., born Christopher Wallace, is being tried in U.S. District Court in L.A. To win damages from the city, the plaintiffs must persuade the jury that Mack, a police officer at the time, was "liable" for the killing. No one has ever been charged with the crime.

Mack, now in prison for an unrelated bank robbery, said he rejected the alleged proposal from the family's lawyers. In March, Mack's lawyer, Marc S. Harris, informed the U.S. attorney's office about the reputed offer.

Harris told prosecutors that he would be willing to cooperate with them in investigating the lawyers' conduct, a law enforcement official said. The U.S. attorney's office did not pursue the matter. The plaintiffs later dropped Mack as a defendant, and he has not testified.

The Wallace family's lawyers, Perry R. Sanders and Robert J. Frank, said Mack's allegations were groundless. In e-mails to The Times, they said that they had never made an offer of the kind Mack described and that "anything to the contrary is a lie."

"There has been one serious settlement discussion with defendant Mack ... and [it] contained no conditions resembling what you ask about," Sanders said.

Asked whether the lawyers urged Mack to invoke the 5th Amendment, Sanders said: "Mr. Mack has taken the 5th extensively previously, and it was anticipated that if he testified live he would do the same."

Mack has never invoked the 5th Amendment regarding the Wallace slaying and has offered to take a polygraph test to prove his innocence. He has taken the 5th in response to questions about the bank robbery.

Asked whether he offered to represent Mack in a lawsuit against the city, Sanders said that "things were discussed with Mr. Mack's attorney which are subject to confidentiality provisions" and referred the question to Harris.

Harris declined to comment on discussions he had had with authorities, his client or the plaintiffs' lawyers -- other than to say that he had discussed all settlement proposals with Mack.

Mack, interviewed at a federal correctional facility in Santa Ana, said: "I find it ironic that the same law firm that prosecuted me for the murder of Ms. [Voletta] Wallace's son would suddenly switch sides and offer to represent me in an action against the city.

"I'm innocent," he said. "I had nothing to do with the murder of Christopher Wallace, and they know it."

Notorious B.I.G., also known as Biggie Smalls, was gunned down March 9, 1997, after a music industry party at the Petersen Automotive Museum in the Mid-Wilshire district. Wallace, 24, was waiting in a car at a stoplight when a man pulled up in a dark Chevrolet Impala, opened fire and sped off.

Mack came under suspicion later that year when he was charged with robbing a Bank of America branch in South Los Angeles. He was convicted of the robbery and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Detectives investigating the Wallace killing learned that Mack owned a black Impala. A witness, shown a photo of Mack, said he thought he had seen him outside the Petersen Museum on the night of the shooting.

Detectives suspected that Mack might have conspired with rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight to arrange the ambush. Knight had been engaged in a bitter feud with Wallace and other East Coast rap figures, and he was rumored to have close ties to corrupt police officers.

Investigators soon abandoned the theory, but it was kept alive by a stream of books, TV specials and documentaries featuring Mack and Knight as figures of suspicion. Mack, 44, has nursed deep bitterness over the publicity.

Three years ago, Wallace's mother; his widow, entertainer Faith Evans; and other family members sued the city, Mack and other defendants.

The suit alleged that Mack was affiliated with the Mob Piru Bloods, a South Los Angeles gang; that he worked as a "covert agent" for Knight's rap label, Death Row Records; and that he conspired to murder Wallace.

The suit seeks damages from the city on the grounds that Mack used his authority as a police officer to orchestrate the killing, and that the Los Angeles Police Department knew or should have known that he was in league with Knight.

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