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October 1, 2014

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Courts:

Suge’ Knight pleads down to battery in deal

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Marion “Suge” Knight

Hip-hop mogul Marion “Suge” Knight pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor domestic battery charge Tuesday in Las Vegas Justice Court as part of a deal with the district attorney’s office that allowed Knight to avoid being tried on felony charges.

The plea was accepted by Justice of the Peace Eric Goodman just one day after Knight was back in the news for suffering injuries in an early-morning fight Monday while partying during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend in Scottsdale, Ariz. Knight was not charged in the incident.

As part of the agreement with Las Vegas prosecutors, Goodman, son of Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, dismissed two felony drug possession charges and one felony coercion charge against Knight, stemming from an Aug. 27 altercation between Knight and his girlfriend, Melissa Isaac. Police arrested Knight, who has a lengthy criminal record, after they allegedly saw him brandishing a knife and punching Isaac in a parking lot off the Strip.

As a result of the plea bargain, Goodman sentenced Knight to 48 hours of community service, fined him $340 and ordered him to attend domestic violence counseling.

District Attorney David Roger said police had lost contact with Isaac, the chief witness against Knight, and without her testimony on the witness stand, prosecutors would have had a hard time proving beyond a reasonable doubt not only the domestic battery charge, but the three felonies.

Knight contended that the illegal drug Ecstasy and the prescription pain reliever hydrocodone found on him when he was booked into the Clark County Detention Center really belonged to Isaac, Roger said. Knight also denied that he coerced Isaac into not contacting police.

A jury might have had some doubt about the felony charges if it couldn’t hear Isaac rebut Knight’s testimony, Roger said.

Knight’s lawyers, David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld, said they were prepared to mount a strong challenge to the district attorney’s case at trial.

“We developed a lot of exculpatory evidence in preparation for his defense,” Schonfeld said, but he would not say what that evidence was.

Roger said he was pleased with the misdemeanor conviction.

“Domestic violence is a serious issue in our community, and anytime we can get a domestic violence conviction without a victim cooperating, we’re happy,” he said. “We’re hopeful the defendant will never batter a woman again, or he’ll face more serious charges and consequences.”

If Knight is convicted of a second misdemeanor domestic battery charge, he’ll have to serve 10 days to six months in jail and up to 200 hours of community service, plus a year of domestic-violence counseling, Roger said. A third conviction, Roger explained, would be a felony carrying a mandatory one-to-five-year prison term.

Knight, a former UNLV football player who co-founded Death Row Records, has had numerous run-ins with the law over the years. In September 1996 he was driving the car and sitting next to Tupac Shakur when the rap artist was killed in a still-unsolved drive-by shooting on Flamingo Road near Koval Lane.

Before his most recent court case, Knight had faced charges of attempted murder, assault, auto theft and carrying a concealed weapon, and served prison time for a parole violation.

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