The Suge Knight Trial: Did Bone Have A Gun?

Sloan-training-day-bw

[Above, Cle “Bone” Sloan, in Training Day]

[These trial updates will make much more sense if you read my feature in Esquire]

It’s all about the video, this case. Visual DNA, attorneys call it, because your eyes don’t lie. And yet look – both sides, prosecution and defense, are pointing to the same piece of tape and saying, “Look! Surely now you can see that he’s innocent/guilty!”

In a recent court filing, on Jul 8th, Knight’s defense attorney Tom Mesereau promised fresh video that shows, “one of his attackers brandishing a weapon.” In the end, it was the same footage as we saw before – the Tam’s Burgers parking lot security video – only a longer version, showing more of the aftermath. I chopped that video, cropped it, blew it up and gave it some Instagram flair (Lomo). Horrible to fuss over a clip like that, but it had to be done. Originally the action was tiny and cramped up in the top left corner, with most of the screen taken up by tarmac, and cars rolling up to get their drive-thru. So I’ve tried to zero in on the fight.

(WARNING: This is hard to watch. A man dies, his name is Terry Carter and he was loved. About 2000 people showed up at his funeral. His daughters are in court every day. They’re nice people. I don’t mean to exploit his death, but to present some evidence in this case.)

That’s Suge’s red truck. The man who approaches is Cle “Bone” Sloan, an Athens Park Piru. As you can see he doesn’t hesitate, he just launches into it. Then Bone is knocked flying when Suge reverses, and the truck runs over him again before ploughing into Carter.

It’s worth noting that this footage directly contradicts the yarn he spun for the police in his first interview. As he said at the prelims, “I might have um, what’s the word, embellished. Because I knew I was responsible too, and Terry [Carter] was dead.”

One of the critical questions of this trial is: Did Bone Sloan have a gun? If he did, then Suge’s self-defense argument looks sound. And so far, it really all comes down to this video.

According to Suge’s co-counsel Thaddeus Culpepper, there are clues in the way he walks up to the truck. “There’s a certain swagger that a person carrying a gun walks with, especially in the black culture,” he says. “So he’s getting ready to use it, or he thinks he is. He’s what we call ‘bailing’. I mean, think about it – who walks up on Suge Knight like that? Suge’s got 100lbs on Sloan. The playing field was not level.”

This is bailing:

Note the swagger, the spring, the arms swinging at his side. Not that anyone goes to prison for swagger, though. Where’s the weapon? The video’s unclear. Maybe it can be enhanced – but if not, is it possible that Suge saw a gun in Sloan’s hand? Maybe the gun emerged at a certain point in the fight and Suge suddenly lurched the truck into action to save himself?

But there’s more. Once Suge’s truck leaves the scene, another gang member, Jimmy Chris, approaches Sloan’s body – quickly before the paramedics get there. He turns him over and takes something out of his right hand, and whatever it was, it must have been important – Sloan got knocked to the floor by a truck and whacked his head on the ground, but he never let go of what was in his right hand. It’s as though his life depended on it.

And look what Jimmy Chris, does with it. He puts it in his waistband, or back pocket, while looking furtively around him.

Notice also, at 15 seconds, the man who enters the screen from the left – is he approaching to help maybe? He takes one look at what Jimmy’s holding, throws his hands up and gets the fuck out.

And yet – the prosecutor, the Sheriff, and Sloan all deny that it was a gun. It was a cell phone. No, it was a radio, a walkie talkie. You know, the kind you need when you’re doing security on a film set like Sloan was.

A couple of things:

One: “Did you ever see someone put a cell phone in their waistband?” A question that was asked by Fletcher, then Mesereau, and even TMZ when it ran the clip after the incident, putting a little arrow over the object marked “possible gun”.

Two: Are we meant to believe that the first instinct of any gangbanger, while their friend is lying, crushed on the ground, is to rush in, before the cops get there, and grab his… cell phone? What was Jimmy after – Sloan’s minutes? The friends and family plan? Is this what they teach in cop school?

But look at how it went down in the preliminary hearing in April, when Fletcher pointed out to Bone that his phone and radio were actually in his car:

FLETCHER: it is a picture of Cle “Bone” Sloan’s radio and cell phone in his car… Do you recognize [that]?

SLOAN: Yes.

FLETCHER: That in fact your cell phone and your radio that were in your car at the time of this incident, correct?

SLOAN: That… it wasn’t there at the time of the incident. It got placed there later. And I never leave the radio on top. I always stick it in the cup holder, so obviously somebody laid it back in there. I imagine when Jimmy took it from me, he put it there.

FLETCHER: So Jimmy Chris took your radio from you?

SLOAN: Yeah. I didn’t… I didn’t know it at first, but yes, that’s what I’m saying. I’m saying Jimmy Chris took my radio, and it wasn’t a gun.

FLETCHER; OK, are you aware that there is a video from the beginning and end and no one entered your car?

SLOAN: Man, that video has ruined my life.

A little later, we heard Sloan doth protest about this alleged gun. He’s an actor (Training Day and End of Watch) and when he saw his you-can’t-handle-the-truth moment, oh he grabbed it.

SLOAN: I’m telling this court I didn’t have a gun. Only thing was out there was my radio… I haven’t carried a gun in two decades. I don’t need a gun. I’m a film-maker. I’m an award-winning filmmaker! I don’t mess with guns. And I am offended by you trying to make this a gun. And I know I’m talking too much. But I need to get my reputation back, because I didn’t have a gun. I don’t need a gun. And I will never take a gun to work. Why?

FLETCHER: I’m just asking you for clarification.

SLOAN: I’m asking a question too. Why would I take a gun to work? I work every day. I’ve been doing this for twenty years.

JUDGE COEN: Let’s move on please.

Of course Sloan’s going to deny it. Here’s what happens if he admits it’s a gun:

Knight’s deadly escape will look even more like self-defense than it already does. Cynthia Barnes will be in the tricky position of having granted immunity to a man who attacks people in car parks with a deadly weapon. So she’ll probably rip that immunity off Sloan like a mask at the end of Scooby Doo, on the grounds that his whole story about being unarmed was in fact bullshit. Because there’s two kinds of immunity – ‘transactional’, which gets you off whatever the circumstance, and ‘use’, which only protects you from your own statements being used against you. Sloan has the ‘use’ kind.

At that point, Barnes could easily prosecute Sloan for felony murder – it’s all on video, after all – and Sloan ends up in the big house with the reputation of having snitched to the Sheriffs about “Big Homey”.

So fine – let it Sloan squirm up there. He’s the Magritte of this trial: Ceci N’est Pas Un Gun.

But it’s something else to see the investigating homicide detective Sheriff Richard Biddle sing the same tune. Biddle has been a cop for 33 years now.

FLETCHER: Have you ever seen someone carry a radio tucked in their waistband?

BIDDLE: I don’t know.

FLETCHER: Had you ever seen people put guns in their waistband?

BIDDLE: Sure.

FLETCHER: And in the video we can see the person bends down by Mr Sloan and takes something out and puts it in his waistband, correct?

BIDDLE: I don’t know if it was a waistband or a pocket or… I can’t tell.

FLETCHER: What did you think it was when he pulled his shirt up and put it in the back?

BIDDLE: My first assumption was it was the radio. 

Let that sink in for a minute. He’s a Compton homicide detective. And yet he’ll watch a couple of gangbangers pass a gun-shaped object between them and go straight to “radio”. (Mind you, Sheriff Biddle’s favorite musical is Annie, Get Your Radio. And he loves that movie The Radios of Navarone.)

*

On Friday, July 17th, this gun thing got weirder.

It was a bad day for the Knight camp. Everything they asked for was slapped down. And then, Judge Ronald S Coen appeared to side with Biddle, Barnes and Bone (the Sheriff, the prosecutor and the witness) about the gun. Mesereau was trying knock Knight’s bail down from $10 million, and part of his argument was that Bone was armed, just look at the tape. But Coen wasn’t buying it. He said he’d watched the video “about five times”.

“This person [Jimmy Chris] picked up an object and appeared to put it in his back pocket,” he said. “And this person didn’t leave the scene. He went from Victim 1 [Sloan] to the decedent [Carter], and stood over him for several minutes…. If I had a gun in my back pocket I wouldn’t be around the company of Deputy Sheriffs…”

It was a telling moment. He wasn’t ruling, he was telegraphing, letting the attorneys know how he was leaning. So now Suge’s team knows that this gun argument might not fly at trial, not as it stands anyway – they’re going to need something more. And Barnes knows that she has a chance of shutting the gun allegation down altogether. She could possibly file a motion to limit, to prevent Mesereau from making the argument at all. After all, he has no witness saying it’s a gun. The only witnesses so far have said, however implausibly, that it isn’t. And if that happens – well, it’s not good for the Sugar Bear.

My two cents is that Coen’s argument stretches credulity. It’s true that Jimmy Chris waits with Carter until the medics show up. But after that, he’s gone. There’s no sight of him when the Sheriffs show up. And the moment he steps out of shot, it’s not unreasonable to think that he might hand the gun off to a third party. That’s what happens with guns, it’s a relay. They get passed along.

So right now, out in the hood, the gun issue is live. Witnesses are reluctant but they know that “Big Homey’s” life might depend on it, so the thinking is, there’s money to be made. Hands are out, the hustle is on. Is testimony you pay for admissible? That’s just one of the problems for Knight’s investigators here. The other is Sheriff Biddle, who they claim is busy scaring all possible witnesses into silence – at least that’s what Mesereau suggested at the bail hearing.

There are even rumors that Sloan himself may be ready to admit that he was armed that day – for the right price. After all, he may have immunity from the law, but does he have immunity from the hood?

More soon.

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