Puff! Goes the Weasel

An Impersonator Witness and Alleged Testilying Redefine Rap Mogul’s Trial

Smith testified she saw "a lot of commotion," heard someone say "something about money," and "then money was thrown" at Combs. She then heard four or five shots and saw Barrow turn and run out of the club, with Combs and Lopez following in his wake. Bogdanos then focused on Combs, seeking to shore up the felony weapons-possession charge against him.

"Did you see anything in his hand?" the prosecutor asked.

"Yes, I did," Smith replied. "Something black."

"When you saw it, what did you believe it to be?"

"A gun," Smith said. "At the time that's what I thought I saw."

Brafman wasted no time ripping into Smith, questioning how the witness, who is five feet tall, could have seen anything when Combs was surrounded by a phalanx of brawny bodyguards. Smith told Brafman that when she heard the shots, she ducked below the bar's counter and had an asthma attack after she was trampled by the panicked crowd. She said she was taken by ambulance to St. Clare's Hospital. At the hospital, before speaking to police and while she was medicated, she rehashed the incident with friends who had accompanied her to the club. Brafman asked whether Smith's recital of events to police and the grand jury had been more influenced by her discussions with friends and what she heard and saw on television than by what she had actually seen. "It was a combination of both," she responded.

Brafman stood in front of the jury box and assumed the position that Smith said Combs had been in relative to her position. He then challenged her to tell him what he had in his hand, but she could not. "Could you see exactly what was in his hand?" the lawyer demanded.

"No, I couldn't," she said. "I guess not. Whatever I saw was black."

Brafman reminded her she had told the grand jury that Combs had a gun. "Well, that's what I said in the grand jury, and if I change my testimony now I'll perjure myself," Smith said.

Almost a week after my conversation with would-be impersonator witness Leonard Taylor, I was not sure he'd told me the truth about his lie. Maybe Taylor really did see one of Sean Combs's "club brawlers" ditching guns, but now was freaking scared that he'd opened his big mouth. If Taylor had given me a false name, why was he so eager to confess? If Leonard Taylor is his name, why would he risk tarnishing it? Besides Taylor's conscience, who could have gotten to him? I had no way of verifying his story, real or imagined.

Additional reporting by Samuel Maull of Associated Press


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