LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Los Angeles judge on Tuesday ordered onetime rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight and comedian Katt Williams to stand trial on charges of robbing a paparazzi photographer of her camera.
The judge’s ruling represents a setback for Knight, who in a separate case is charged with murdering a man by running him over with his pickup truck in a January altercation outside a burger stand in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton.
In the robbery case, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald Coen heard evidence against Knight and Williams at a preliminary hearing and ordered a trial for the pair on robbery charges stemming from the September 2014 altercation in Beverly Hills. Knight also faces a separate charge of making a criminal threat.
Prosecutors in the case have said if Knight is convicted they will seek a sentence of 25 years to life under California’s three-strikes law, which gives stiffer sentences to those previously convicted of serious felonies. Knight has convictions from 1997 on two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.
Knight, 50, who co-founded influential hip hop label Death Row Records, sat quietly in an orange jumpsuit wearing black glasses and with his feet chained during the hearing.
Knight’s attorney Thomas Mesereau told the court his client was with his son when he encountered photographer Leslie Redden, and that he was trying to protect the boy from public exposure.
“He never struggled with anyone, he never touched anyone,” Mesereau said.
Redden testified that she was videotaping Knight in an alley in Beverly Hills when he charged toward her.
“He called me a bitch. He said that he will beat my ass and then he said to someone, ‘Take this bitch’s camera,'” Redden said, adding that she ran down the street and was chased by two people.
Beverly Hills police detective Mark Schwartz said a surveillance video showed a woman throw Redden against a wall.
Other footage played in court showed Williams, a comedian who was with Knight that day, walking toward Redden with nothing in his hands and then returning holding a camera, Schwartz said.
Williams’ attorney Shawn Holley told the judge her client gave the camera to someone else.
“He had no intention to keep the camera,” she said. “The only purpose was to delete the images.”
Coen ordered an arraignment hearing for Knight and Williams for Oct. 27.
Reporting by Olga Grigoryants; Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Eric Beech