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Judge dismisses suit by Notorious B.I.G.’s family against Los Angeles

The family of rapper Christopher Wallace alleged that officials covered up LAPD involvement in his 1997 slaying. Lawyers say the suit may be filed at a later date.

April 20, 2010|By Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times

A federal judge has dismissed a wrongful-death suit filed eight years ago by the family of rapper Notorious B.I.G. against the city of Los Angeles charging that officials covered up police involvement in the rapper's slaying.

The rapper Christopher Wallace, also known as Biggie Smalls, was gunned down outside the Petersen Automotive Museum on March 9, 1997, as he was leaving a music industry party. The criminal investigation surrounding Wallace's slaying remains open.

The lawsuit was dismissed April 5 by U.S. District Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen after lawyers on both sides of the case said they had reached an agreement allowing for the lawsuit to be filed at a later date.

Bradley Gage, one of six attorneys for Wallace's family, said the criminal investigation appeared to be "gathering speed and steam" and that attorneys were putting the civil lawsuit on hold to prevent conflicting outcomes between the civil and criminal cases.

"We run the risk of pursing a case against some people, and later finding out we went after the wrong people," he said, adding that evidence presented in a potential criminal trial could be used in the civil case. "There is benefit to both sides in waiting on this case. Murder has no statute of limitations, so the criminal issues linger on."

But Los Angeles Police Capt. Kevin McClure denied there were developments in the criminal investigation.

"I don't know where they're getting all this," he said. "We have no changes in this investigation, we have no new leads."

"The family signed the dismissal, and concluded this eight-year odyssey," said Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the Los Angeles city attorney's office. "From what I understand, the [civil] case was dragging on so long, it really wasn't going anywhere."

Wallace's family, including his mother, first sued the city in 2002. The case went to trial in 2005, but ended in a mistrial after the family's attorney accused the Los Angeles Police Department of withholding evidence. Judge Florence-Marie Cooper, who oversaw the trial and has since died, ordered the city to pay $1.1 million in sanctions.

The civil lawsuit estimated the financial losses from the rapper's death could be as much as $500 million. The family alleged that corrupt LAPD officers were involved in Wallace's slaying, a claim the city has denied.

victoria.kim@latimes.com

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