Three witnesses say they saw the rap mogul with a gun

By Lori L. Tharps
Updated February 22, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

”The people rest.” These were the three simple words uttered by Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos on Wednesday morning, signifying the end of the prosecution’s case against Sean ”Puffy” Combs and his codefendants Anthony ”Wolf” Jones and Jamal ”Shyne” Barrow. Combs is facing weapons and bribery charges, and could be looking at up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Three weeks and more than 35 witnesses later, the case against Combs in Manhattan Supreme Court hinges on the testimony of three key players. Two gunshot victims from the club and the driver of Combs’ Lincoln Navigator all stated under oath that they saw the hip hop mogul with a gun on the night of December 26, 1999. Both victims said he flashed the black semiautomatic, while the driver testified he saw Combs holding the gun and placing it in his waistband before heading off to a party at Club New York.

But even as the evidence against him grew more damaging, Combs remained cool in the courtroom and continued to proclaim his innocence to the press. So did a handful of celebrity supporters, including Russell Simmons, Faith Evans, and Harvard professor Cornel West. ”I’m here to give 100 percent — no, 120 percent — support for Brother Puffy,” West told reporters, saying the two have been friends for about four years. West added that he was wary of the legal proceedings in this particular case: ”When you get a highly successful black man who gets targeted, it always raises a question of whether a black man can receive a fair trial in America.”

The defense team, consisting of high profile lawyers Johnnie Cochran and Benjamin Brafman, begin their arguments Thursday. Experts predict the jury will receive the case by March 9.