CNN's Shannon Troetel on the Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs trial
CNN producer Shannon Troetel has been following the trial of rapper Sean "Puffy" Combs, who has been charged with gun possession and bribery in connection with an incident at Club New York on December 27, 1999.
Q: In this fifth week of the trial, what are we expecting to see?
Troetel: Obviously, this is a huge week for the trial in that one of its celebrity defendants, rapper Sean "Puffy" Combs, takes the stand.
On Wednesday, prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos, a Manhattan assistant district attorney, asked Judge Charles Solomon to hold Combs in contempt of court for a "blatant disregard" for the gag order that has been imposed on both the defendants and their attorneys throughout this trial. Judge Solomon has not ruled on the contempt order.
Thursday is expected to be a media circus at Manhattan Supreme Court with representatives from the major television networks, local television stations, entertainment news shows, international media, Court-TV, MTV, Entertainment Weekly and the print media.
Q: Why is the defense putting Combs on the stand?
Troetel: His defense attorney said today that his client has said throughout this that he did not commit this crime, that he is innocent, and that he wants his day in court. I think, too, saving this celebrity witness for the end of the defense’s case matches Brafman’s and Cochran’s flamboyant legal style. However, I think Combs should be prepared for a tough cross-examination from Bogdanos.
Q: What is it like in the courtroom on the average trial day?
Troetel: The courtroom is packed daily. It has only ten rows of seats. Three rows are reserved for media, two for family and friends. Janice Combs, the defendant’s mother, comes to court daily with her son. The rest of the courtroom is reserved for the general public and sketch artists. Lines of people waiting to get into the courtroom can often be seen on trial days. Some people are fans of the hip-hop mogul, and Puffy has signed autographs in the hallway.
Once, Combs did stop to speak at a bank of microphones. He proclaimed his innocence and thanked the fans who have supported him throughout this trial. During the trial, he has always been accompanied by security personnel, and almost always stays inside the courthouse during the lunch hour, which is from 1 to 2:15 p.m. EST. His mother has been known to bring lunches for him.
Q: What type of court does Judge Solomon run?
Troetel: Judge Solomon runs an orderly, no-nonsense courtroom. He expects everyone to be on time. He has reprimanded both defense and prosecution attorneys for unprofessional conduct in the courtroom. At one point, Judge Solomon also reprimanded one of Combs’ co-defendants in the trial, rapper Jamaal "Shyne" Barrow, after Barrow shook his head back and forth to show disapproval of one of the judge’s rulings. "If you don’t like my ruling," the judge said angrily, "keep your personal opinions to yourself."
Q: What can you tell us about the rapport between the judge and the prosecution and defense teams?
Troetel: Generally, it seems that the defense and prosecution attorneys have a good rapport with Judge Solomon. Although he runs a tight ship, he does have a sense of humor.
For instance, every day people in the courtroom are reminded to turn off their cellphones and pages. Today, in the middle of some witness testimony, Combs’ own cellphone went off rather loudly. He apologized sheepishly. The judge laughed, and then reminded people to turn off their cellphones and pagers.
Q: Have either the defense or the prosecution been able to cast doubt on the credibility of the other’s witnesses?
Troetel: The defense has said that all three of the prosecution witness who testified that they saw Combs with a gun have filed lawsuits against Combs. This fact, according to the defense, makes them bad witnesses because they are out for personal gain.
Q: One of the oddities which has occurred during this trial is that Sean "Puffy" Combs was a host for a fashion show which featured his line of clothes. Is he using this trial to showcase his clothing line?
Troetel: He has sported several pieces from his Sean John collection. There have been several references throughout the trial testimony to what Combs was supposedly wearing the night of the shooting at Club New York, including a light gray Sean John sweat shirt.
Q: When is the defense expected to rest its case?
Troetel: If it doesn’t rest tomorrow, it will rest on Friday. It depends on what happens during the testimony of Combs.
Q: When is the jury expected to get this case?
Troetel: The judge wants to charge the jury no later than March 13. He expects closing arguments on the 12th.
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