By Terri Vermeulen Keith
Former rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight—who is awaiting trial in two cases on charges including murder and robbery—pleaded not guilty Thursday to a felony charge of threatening the director of the film "Straight Outta Compton" about three years ago.
Knight, 52, was indicted by a Los Angeles County grand jury in February in the latest case, which alleges he threatened "to commit a crime which would result in death and great bodily injury to Felix Gary Gray" on or about Aug. 8, 2014.
The threat was allegedly sent to Gray via text message.
Outside the downtown Los Angeles courtroom, defense attorney Matthew Fletcher questioned why the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office had waited so long to file the case if they had evidence against Knight, and said the defense is objecting to the prosecution's request to consolidate the threat charge with the murder case.
Fletcher said he recalled the only text message he has seen as being related to, "You have family, I have family. We all need to eat. God bless you," but he said the defense disputes whether that message was sent by Knight.
The defense attorney said the text message was allegedly sent after filming of "Straight Outta Compton" had wrapped up and "there was supposedly negotiation going on (about) whether or not Mr. Knight had to be compensated for the use of his likeness in that movie."
Fletcher told reporters he does not believe the text message even came from a phone belonging to Knight, and said there was "certainly no evidence" his client had sent any threatening text messages.
Knight's attorney said the message he has seen "contains nothing that anyone could reasonably construe as a threat," while noting that he had not picked up information about evidence submitted to the grand jury because the prosecution asked for a protective order barring public disclosure of the contents.
Knight's fiancée, Toi-Lin Kelly, said she has been with him for more than 12 years and "he doesn't send threatening texts."
One of Knight's sons, Suge Jacob Knight, told reporters he believes the new charge means "they don't have anything on my father."
"Our father's coming home," said his 21-year-old son, wearing a T- shirt with the words "Free Suge" and a drawing of his father. "He's not a bad guy. He's not what the media portrays. Trust me, a man that makes 300 million (dollars) as a mogul like that would not risk everything for a hit-and- run. ... There's no pure evidence that Suge did anything to anybody ... I feel like it's time to get this label off."
Knight is awaiting trial in January on charges of murder, attempted murder and hit-and-run for allegedly killing 55-year-old Terry Carter and injuring Cle "Bone" Sloan on Jan. 29, 2015, by running them down with a pickup truck in the parking lot of Tam's Burgers in the 1200 block of West Rosecrans Avenue.
Knight is also awaiting trial in a separate case involving a camera that was allegedly stolen from a female paparazzo in September 2014. Comedian Micah "Katt" Williams—who was charged along with Knight in that case—pleaded no contest April 17 to a felony count of second-degree robbery and was sentenced to 54 weeks of anger management classes and three years’ probation.
Prosecutors have repeatedly cited Knight's violent history, stating in court papers filed in 2015 that he "has been a violent, unrepentant criminal for over 30 years." They have said his past shows "utter contempt for the judicial system and human life."