Ex-lawyers for rap's 'Suge' Knight accused of witness bribery

FILE PHOTO -- Defendant Marion "Suge" Knight attends a hearing with attorney Thomas Mesereau in his murder case in Los Angeles, California in this July 7, 2015, file photo. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon/Files

(Reuters) - Two former lawyers for rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight were indicted on charges of conspiracy to bribe potential witnesses in his upcoming murder trial, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said on Monday.

Matthew Fletcher and Thaddeus Culpepper were accused of trying to pay off people to provide favorable testimony at Knight’s trial for murder charges stemming from a fatal Los Angeles hit-and-run, prosecutors said in a statement.

Culpepper said the charges in a Jan. 24 grand jury indictment were “pure retaliation” by prosecutors.

“We’ve come very close to being able to prove criminal procedural fraud on their part,” Culpepper said of the district attorney’s office, declining to provide further details on his allegations.

Fletcher was not immediately available for comment. A lawyer representing Knight did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Knight, co-founder of influential hip-hop label Death Row Records, is awaiting trial on charges he ran down two men with his Ford F-150 pick-up truck outside Tam’s Burgers in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton on Jan. 29, 2015.

Fletcher allegedly told Knight it would take about $20,000 to $25,000 in bribes to potential witnesses to secure his freedom, the prosecutors said.

In 2016, an informant allegedly told Culpepper he would be willing to testify he saw weapons at the murder scene, even though the informant was not there when the crime occurred, the indictment said. Culpepper and Knight allegedly agreed to use the informant as a defense witness at trial.

If convicted, Fletcher and Culpepper face a possible maximum sentence of three years and eight months in jail, according to the district attorney’s office.

Reporting By Andrew Hay; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Oatis