NEW: Knight "was being attacked and trying to get away from that attack," his attorney says
"That's absurd," injured man's attorney says of that version of events
Knight complains of chest pains during hearing, taken to the hospital from courthouse
Former rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder charges in a fatal hit-and-run incident before complaining of chest pains in court and being taken to the hospital.
Knight, 49, stood in a defendant’s box next to his attorneys and intently read the complaint against him as the hearing opened.
Wearing a Los Angeles County orange inmate jumpsuit, he glanced back into the gallery several times in the Compton, California, courtroom during the brief hearing and answered the judge’s questions politely with, “Yes, sir, your honor.”
Later in the session, Knight was transported to a hospital after saying he was having chest pains, according to Officer John Gardner of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau.
Mark Blankenship, president of Everlert Entertainment and who has business dealings with Knight, told reporters Tuesday he believed Knight was under strain because he hasn’t had access to his medicine.
“Imagine yourself being picked up unexpectedly into a jail cell and not having the right medicine. I know they’ve been seeking to get him medicine. He has special medicines he needs,” Blankenship told reporters. “It’s a medical condition.”
Knight faces up to life in prison if convicted in the fatal hit-and-run in Compton last week. Knight is accused of running over two men and killing one of them following an argument.
The man who died was Terry Carter, 55, a former rap record label owner. The second man is Cle “Bone” Sloan, 51.
Sloan’s attorney, Michael Shapiro, said Tuesday that his client is in shock and has suffered a serious concussion and might not be able to walk again. Sloan’s left foot was mangled in the alleged hit-and-run, Shapiro said.
The attorney added that his client is out of the hospital now and is in a secret location with hired protection.
Knight, who was out on bail in a separate robbery case, is charged with one count of murder, one count of attempted murder, and two counts of hit-and-run with an allegation that he committed a serious and violent felony while out on bail, the district attorney’s office said in a statement.
He has prior convictions, “making this a third strike case,” it said.
Knight turned himself in to Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department investigators early Friday.
On Tuesday, Knight’s attorney, David Kenner, told reporters outside the courthouse that Knight was trying to flee from an attack in the hit-and-run incident.
“It’s too early to tell, but clearly from what I understand … he was being attacked and trying to get away from that attack, no more than that,” Kenner said.
Knight felt remorseful about the death and the injury in the incident, Kenner said.
“It’s not his fault,” Kenner added about Knight.
Carter and Knight were friends, Kenner said. “They’ve known each other for a long time,” the attorney said.
Another of Knight’s attorneys, James Blatt, has also said that Knight feared for his life and was trying to flee, according to CNN affiliate KCAL-TV and the Los Angeles Times.
“We feel strongly Mr. Knight did not do anything wrong in this matter. He was attacked by a number of individuals; that has already been corroborated by certain witnesses. He left the scene because he was in fear for his safety and life,” Blatt said.
The attorney for Sloan dismissed that version of events.
“That’s absurd,” Shapiro said Tuesday.
During Tuesday’s arraignment, the initial judge assigned to the case, John Cheroske, recused himself because he had represented both victims in the case in his years as an attorney. Judge Ricardo Ocampo quickly took over the case.
Knight’s bail hearing was scheduled for next Monday. He is now being held in jail without bail.
Knight founded the wildly successful Death Row Records in 1991, signing artists such as Snoop Doggy Dogg (since then known as Snoop Dogg and Snoop Lion) and Tupac Shakur.
Knight was driving the car in which Shakur was a passenger when the rapper was shot to death in Las Vegas in 1996.
Shortly afterward, Knight spent several years in prison for violating parole on assault and weapons convictions. That prison time – along with Shakur’s death, feuds between Knight and a number of rappers and desertions by Dr. Dre, Snoop and others – contributed to the label’s bankruptcy in 2006.
In August, Knight and two other people were shot while inside a celebrity-filled Sunset Strip party hosted by singer Chris Brown on the eve of the MTV Video Music Awards.