Who got a gun?
Who got a bomb?
Who got a knife?
Who’s gonna lose their life?
Bodyguard, I wouldn’t like your job. . . .
All that fretting
All that checking
All that searching,
—”The Bodyguard,” Steel Pulse
Anthony Jones, an ex-con with a smoothly brushed Caesar haircut, is buff like a bullnecked tackle who rumbles in the Xtreme Football League. He is handsome in a rudeboy way, the kind of thug-looking fella hip hop Jezebels swoon over. On the eighth day of his illegal gun possession and bribery trial in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, Jones, wearing a dark blue pinstriped suit, is slumped in a mahogany chair, appearing tired of the ritual. Although it is not the seating arrangement he chose, Jones, who is positioned near a railing separating the courtroom well from the crowded gallery, is just within reach of his codefendant, rap mogul Sean “Puffy” Combs.
Jones, who got the nickname “Wolf” for styling his hair like ’60s sitcom fright kid Wolfgang Munster—widow’s peak and all—listens intently to key prosecution witness Julius Jones (no relation) recall how a heckler’s threat to kill Combs triggered the December 27, 1999, shooting at Club New York. In a flash, the 34-year-old professional bodyguard once again is cast in the precarious role of the man who watches “Puff Daddy’s” back.
In one of the more dramatic cross-examinations at the trial, defense attorney Michael F. Bachner attempts to buttress the theory that Julius Jones, who allegedly was shot by rapper Jamal “Shyne” Barrow, actually was part of a group of hecklers led by the mysterious “Scar,” who taunted Combs and lobbed a wad of $20 bills in Combs’s face as Combs, Barrow, actress-singer Jennifer Lopez, and Anthony Jones left the Times Square nightclub. Bachner rips into Jones’s story in which he portrays himself as the man who prevented Anthony Jones from grabbing a bottle of champagne to pummel either “Scar” or another heckler who, the witness remembers, was built like Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.
Bachner: You told this jury that at the time that the champagne bottle was being picked up that you stopped the person from picking up the bottle; is that correct?
Bachner: And isn’t it a fact, sir, that you didn’t do any such thing?
Bachner: Isn’t it a fact, sir, that the person who stopped the champagne bottle from being picked up was my client, Anthony Jones?
Jones: No, not to my knowledge.
Bachner, a 44-year-old Hofstra University alumnus who teaches trial techniques to other lawyers, dredges up Jones’s grand jury testimony.
Question: This person, each time he would put his hand on the champagne bottle, the bodyguard would say, “Get your hands off the bottle!” He took his hands off the bottle.
Answer: Yeah, I guess he thought he . . . we was going to smack him in the head with it.
Question: The bodyguard?
What follows is like a scene from one of Bachner’s combative appearances on Rivera Live.
Bachner: Do you remember, sir, being asked those questions and giving those answers in the grand jury?
Jones: Can I see that?
Bachner: [I]sn’t it a fact that you swore to the grand jury that the bodyguard was the person who was telling this other guy to put the bottle down, not you?
Jones: I grabbed the bottle, too, and the big guy grabbed it.
Bachner then tries to establish that Jones told jurors a different story than the one he told the grand jury, a tactic Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos loudly objected to over Jones’s fluty denial.
Bachner: Sir, isn’t it a fact that you were with Scar and this other person that evening?
Jones: No, sir.
Bachner: Isn’t it a fact, sir, that you were going to try and smack the bodyguard in the head with the champagne bottle?
Jones: No, sir.
Lost amid Michael Bachner’s argument that Anthony Jones tried to defuse tensions at Club New York that day, not escalate them, is the fact that Jones has put his life on the line far too many times for Sean Combs. Most of the time, Jones has been all that stood between Combs and the unnecessary roughness of the Scars and the Ray Lewis look-alikes. “A lot of cats don’t like Puffy, but they are too timid to cross Wolf, who is like Puffy’s extra arm,” says a hip hop impresario who knows both Combs and Jones, and who asked not to be identified. Yet when cops portray Jones as a hot-tempered, gun-toting felon, the impresario describes him as “part guardian angel, part wolf,” the kind of cunning creature who lives by an old Mafia maxim, “Blood washes blood.”
“If there’s any creature like that, Wolf definitely is the one,” says an Atlanta-based bodyguard who has worked alongside Jones guarding Combs at Justin’s, a restaurant the rapper owns in the upscale Atlanta suburb of Buckhead. “Once I was about to be locked up and the guardian angel part of him stepped in when no one else would.” That’s the Anthony Jones most people in Atlanta’s tight-knit, mostly black celebrity bodyguard circles know. “Wolf looks out for a lot of people,” says the president of a rival security agency who spoke on condition of anonymity. “He put my guys on to a lot of work, got us in the game. He was not intimidated by us. He would sit down at the table and we would argue back and forth with him.”
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.”
The owner called on Fulton County sheriff’s deputy Chris J. Howard, who was working an off-duty security job at the club that night. Howard ordered Jones’s crew out of the club. “He put Wolf and them out first, and then went back inside to walk Suge’s Crew out,” the friend says. Jones and his supporters waited outside, and the friend remembers Jones shouting into a cell phone, “We’re not going in there! Forget it. We’re outta here.” But just as the deputy was giving the West Coast crew the boot, a car carrying Sean Combs pulled up in front of the club.
“It was just a coincidence,” the friend says. “More woofin’ start. Puff, never being the one to duck nothing, sticks his head out the window. It wasn’t like Puff had a hit record and people were eager to see him. Most people there didn’t even know him. This is ’95. He was just a guy around Biggie, his top-selling artist. Then Puff gets out the car and says, ‘Yo, what’s up?’ and blah, blah, blah. Everybody’s just arguing, and now Suge starts arguing, shouting, ‘Yo, what the fuck is up?’ and ‘So what?’ ” With Combs on the scene, according to Jones’s friend, Knight felt he had to “represent” his crew. “It’s like this,” the friend explains. “You’re walking with your crew and you trying to shut your crew up. But while you’re trying to shut your crew up, the next crew is making noise: You’re not gonna keep telling your crew to be quiet. Your reputation as a tough guy is at stake.”
Throughout the battle of words, Jones and an associate kept their arms folded, the friend noticed. “They wasn’t talking,” he claims. “And when certain people don’t talk, that’s when it’s time to shut up because shit happens.”
Then the gangsta known as “Big Jake” got out of a car and began to riff on Combs’s camp. “Big Jake is arguing back and forth,” Jones’s friend notes. As their supporters banged, Knight and Jones eyeballed each other. “So now it’s Wolf and Suge, eye to eye, staring at each other, waiting for the next move. They’re not talking. Then shots rang out, and that’s when everybody jump in cars and jet off. Puff jumps into his car and bounces.”
According to police reports and the Fulton County medical examiner, as Robles was getting into a limo, a man with a semiautomatic ran up and riddled him with gunfire. He was shot twice in the stomach and once in the back. “Nobody even knew ‘Money’ [Big Jake] was shot, until the owner of the Platinum Club ran over to him and cradled him,” Jones’s friend recalls. “He was just trying to keep Big Jake down, saying, ‘Don’t move!’ and yelling, ‘Someone call an ambulance!’ Robles died two weeks later in a hospital.
“After all the shit them Cali guys talk about blood, the owner of the club was the only one who went to see Big Jake in the hospital,” Jones’s friend says. “That’s something that security people like us talk about: Your client really don’t give a shit about you. They just talk that shit. When you drop, that’s it.”
Five years later, Anthony Jones and Sean Combs are sitting in a Manhattan courtroom answering charges about another nightclub brawl that left three patrons injured. Both face 15 years behind bars. On February 7, the day Jones’s attorney Michael Bachner has launched an all-out attack on shooting victim Julius Jones, Bachner takes another swing at the witness after prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos had labored feverishly to rehabilitate his testimony.
Bachner: Mr. Jones, the person who you describe in the grand jury as being the bodyguard, who was telling the person to put the bottles down, is it your testimony now that that person . . . is not Anthony Jones?
Jones: Excuse me?
Bachner: The person who you described in the grand jury as the bodyguard?
Bachner: Who was telling the individual to get his hands off the champagne bottles?
Bachner: Was that Anthony Jones?
Jones: No, sir.
Bachner: Can you describe that person? [Bogdanos objects, claiming that Julius Jones has not provided a description of the bottle grabber in previous testimony.]
Bachner: Never been described?
Jones: Bald-headed guy.
Judge Charles Solomon: A big bald-headed guy.
Jones: Big Ray Lewis–looking guy.
Solomon: That’s the Ray Lewis–looking guy?
Solomon: He described him already. [But Bachner persists, asking whether the witness had seen Anthony Jones at the bar before the shooting broke out.]
Jones: He was standing around Puffy when that argument started.
Bachner: So Anthony Jones was right there?
Jones: Yes. [Bachner then harangues Jones about the multimillion-dollar lawsuit he filed against Anthony Jones.]
Bachner: Now, when you filed your lawsuit, you met with your lawyer, didn’t you? Sir, did you tell your lawyers that Anthony Jones shot you?
Jones: No, sir.
Bachner: That is a false statement, is it not? [Jones is not allowed to answer the question.]
Bachner: Mr. Jones, you have told this jury that you’re not here to make any money and you’re not here to put anyone down. You recall saying that to the jury?
Jones: Yes, I just don’t want to be looked at like that.
Jones is not permitted to answer when Bachner reminds him that he told the jury that all he wanted was for someone to be held responsible for what happened to him, and when Bachner declares that Anthony Jones “had absolutely nothing to do with your injuries.” Bachner rephrases his question: “Can we agree, sir, that Mr. Jones never assaulted you? Never battered you? And never shot you?”
“I agree, he didn’t,” Jones answers over Bogdanos’s beaten-down objection. “He didn’t [shoot] me.” Extracting such an agreement is Bachner’s way of reminding jurors that his client is not charged with shooting anybody.
The fireworks will come, Bachner promises, when Wardell Fenderson takes the stand to testify against Anthony Jones and Sean Combs. Fenderson drove the Lincoln Navigator that whisked Jones, Combs, and Jennifer Lopez from Club New York after the shooting. Jones is charged with having a gun in the SUV and bribing Fenderson to say the weapon belonged to him. Fenderson told prosecutors that as they fled the club and were pursued by cops, he and Jones discussed ways of concealing a gun in the vehicle.
“I ask you, members of the jury,” Bachner said in his opening remarks, “if Anthony Jones, a person the prosecutor has told you has a prior conviction, knew that a gun was under his seat, would he leave it sticking out in plain view? I ask you, members of the jury, would Anthony Jones not have put the gun as he is seated alone in the Navigator in the glove compartment? Would he not have thrown it by Mr. Fenderson’s seat? Would he not have tucked it by Mr. Fenderson’s seat? No. What the evidence will show [is that] it was sighted right under where he was seated, in plain view. I submit to you, members of the jury, it’s absurd to conclude that Anthony Jones knew he had possession of a gun on that day.”
As to the the bribery allegation, Bachner sarcastically declared that Fenderson was “offered a bribe like Bonnie and Clyde were offered bank loans.”
An Impersonator Witness and Alleged Testilying Redefine Rap Mogul’s Trial
by Peter Noel
Scapegoating Sean Combs to Get Back at Johnnie Cochran
by Peter Noel
The Gangsta Life and Times of Jamal Barrow
by Peter Noel
Are Civil Rights Leaders Frontin’ for Hip Hop Gangstas?
by Peter Noel
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 13, 2001