By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
The head of one fledgling agency emotionally recalls how Jones saved his business by introducing him to Combs. "That's how we started doing business," he declares. "Every client we met was really through Wolf." Then there's the impresario who allegedly had not been paid by Combs. "Puffy ain't always the best when it comes to paying," the impresario says. "A lot of the times it's his people, trying to play games, but whenever there was a discrepancy, all I had to do was step to Wolf and he'd take care of it. He'd make sure that problem was taken care of."
Jones, others observed, often felt he had to take the rap for knuckleheads in Combs's camp. "If Puffy's crew did something wrong and they were around Wolf when shit went down, the allegation is that 'Wolf did it,' " explains a former rap music executive who left the industry with the advent of what he calls murder music. "Wolf is they big man. He's got the rep. Pretty much it's gon' be seen like he put it on; he made this happen. It's just the rules of the game; it's just how it goes, and if you play up to it, that's the way it is."
But Anthony Jones has never bragged about a murder in which he is the prime suspect. This is a factor that New York City law-enforcement sources say has stymied efforts by Atlanta cops to solve the 1995 killing of Jai Hassan-Jamal Robles, a 24-year-old Compton, California, gang member who was an executive with Death Row Records, ace rival to Combs's Bad Boy Records. Jones is at the center of an investigation that has been resuscitated by his arrest in the Club New York shooting.
"It has been gossiped in Atlanta that Wolf did it," says a friend of Jones, who believes the bodyguard is innocent. "Wolf talks a lot to the police down here because all the cops that work part-time in clubs know him, and it's not a bad relationship. Most of them assumed that he was the one who did the killing, but they never sweat him for it. Why? How about the fact that they have their own doubts, and that they depend on him because he knows how to talk to people? If there is a major problem at their spots, Wolf is the only one, for some reason, who can arbitrate a peaceful outcome."
Jones's trial in New York has stirred up once bitter feelings about the Atlanta killing. "People down here are changing their telephone numbers," claims a black cop who moonlights as a bodyguard for some Atlanta-based r&b singers. "Suddenly, certain people are questioning other people's loyalty to Wolf. People who we know had been cool for a hot minute are now calling shots. We're like, 'What's up with them?' They've been acting kinda funny or maybe they're not; maybe we just think they are. It's getting ugly."
A bodyguard who remains friendly with Anthony Jones remembers Jones and an unidentified associate arriving at the trendy Platinum Club on West Peachtree Street in midtown Atlanta on the night of September 23, 1995. Despite what his critics believe, Jones wasn't looking for trouble. He was 37 days short of concluding his parole for a 1991 conviction on charges of attempted murder and criminal possession of a gun. He served less than two years and was released. But he blew his parole, and was sent back to prison on December 7, 1994. He was released 15 days later.
Jones's friend insists that Jones went to the Platinum Club to check out security at the nightspot before reporting back to Sean Combs, who was waiting at a nearby hotel. "Wolf went there as advance man for the Bad Boy camp, making sure everything was straight, setting up how Puff's gonna come in, when he gonna come in," recalls the friend, who was questioned for two hours by Atlanta cops about the killing of Jai Hassan-Jamal Robles.
Marion "Suge" Knight, Combs's fiercest competitor, who headed the Los Angeles-based Death Row Records, was already at the club. He was flanked by several thugs from the Crips and Robles, a 309-pound gangsta who was known as "Big Jake," who had gotten out of jail just two days earlier. The Cali crew fraternized with other "O.G." (Original Gangsta) Crips from Los Angeles. Jones's appearance, however, triggered a volley of East Coast bashing.
"They started bangin' on Wolf, saying stuff like, 'You and that buster you're with, nigga, what up?' " recalls Jones's friend. "Wolf and them didn't sweat it; they wasn't worried because they felt it wasn't a big deal. Rivalries like this come up all the time. And it's not just between New York and California. Confrontations often occur between the Detroit and Chicago crews. A lot of times we've done parties for Crips and Bloods and had to tell people on both sides, 'Yo, tell your people to cool out.' Nothing happened if you had proper security."
Knight, Jones's friend remembers, said nothing until the club's owner appealed to him to calm down his crew. "Suge deaded it at one point," the friend says. "He told them to kill the noise." But tensions flared again and began to boil over. "It got real heated because Wolf's crew is now answering back the Cali crew; they're going back and forth."