LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A key witness in the hit-and-run murder case against Marion "Suge" Knight told a Los Angeles judge on Monday he was reluctant to "snitch" against the one-time rap music mogul, declining even to positively identify him in open court.
Cle "Boan" Sloan, one of two men Knight is accused of deliberately running over in his pickup truck at a hamburger stand in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton, took the witness stand at a preliminary hearing in the case.
Prosecutors say Knight traded punches with Sloan through the window of his vehicle before putting the truck into reverse, knocking Sloan and another man, Terry Carter, to the ground. They say he then pulled forward to run over both men.
Carter, 55, later died. Sloan, 51, suffered a badly mangled left foot and head injuries.
Knight, 49, is charged with murder, attempted murder and two counts of felony hit-and-run in the Jan 29 fracas, which followed an argument on the set of a commercial for the film Straight Outta Compton.
On the witness stand at the start of the hearing, Sloan, who described himself as a "non-active gang member," balked at giving testimony that would incriminate the defendant, and he repeatedly said he recalled few of the circumstances surrounding their confrontation.
"I'm no snitch and I will not be made to be a snitch," he said. "I will not be used to send Suge Knight to prison."
Asked by Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Barnes if he could identify Knight as she pointed to him in the courtroom, Sloan said, "That doesn't look like Mr Knight."
Wearing an orange jail uniform and handcuffs for Monday's proceeding, Knight appeared slightly thinner since his last court hearing, with a touch of gray in his beard.
If found guilty, the co-founder of Death Row Records would face a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life in prison.
Knight has pleaded not guilty. His attorney contended Knight accidentally ran into the two men as he tried to speed away from the scene of what he thought was an ambush attempt.
While Sloan denied being able to recount details of the incident in court, attorneys read from a transcript of a statement he gave police detectives that night.
In excerpts cited in court, Sloan told police he and Knight had quarrelled on the film set, and the confrontation resumed later outside a hamburger stand after Sloan overheard Knight bad-mouthing him.