The judge upholds a gag order ruling at the pre-trial hearing

By Lori L. Tharps
Updated January 12, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST
Puff Daddy: Robert Mecea/AP

Sean ”Puffy” Combs was back in court Thursday for pre- trial motions for his upcoming case in New York State Supreme Court on charges of criminal possession of a weapon and bribing a witness, stemming from a shooting at Club New York in December 1999. The appearance, in front of the Honorable Judge Charles Solomon, was intended only to cover basic procedures for the trial, but the atmosphere became more charged than an episode of ”Law & Order.”

Things turned dramatic after Combs’ lead counsel, Benjamin Brafman (Johnnie Cochran is also part of Combs’ new millennial legal dream team), begged Solomon to remove the gag order issued on January 5 to restrict counsel from speaking to the press about the case. Brafman was incensed by a January 6 New York Daily News article quoting a ”secret” prosecution witness who claimed she saw Combs with a gun at the club that night. ”It’s simply not fair we’re not able to respond,” Brafman railed at the judge. ”You can not tape our mouths and tie our hands.”

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos wasn’t buying it. Said Bogdanos, Combs ”played the media to his advantage like an instrument,” referring to statements the Bad Boy honcho made to news outlets like the Daily News and BET, professing his innocence. ”Now the press is interested in the trial and the defendant cries foul.” The gag order was upheld.

Judge Solomon was more understanding, however, when it came to granting Combs’ request to have special seating arranged for his family members who may come to support him during the trial, which is scheduled to begin the week of January 22. If convicted, Combs could face up to seven years in a state prison for bribery. Criminal possession of a weapon can carry up to an additional 15 years. Stay tuned.