Rappers Raise New Questions in Knight Case

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Two men assaulted five years ago by rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight say that prosecutor Lawrence M. Longo urged them to accept a settlement in a civil suit that undermined the criminal case against Knight.

George Stanley and Lynwood Stanley, brothers and aspiring rap artists, also say that Longo's son got a job working for the lawyer who drafted their civil settlement and that his daughter auditioned to appear on their album, which Longo knew was to be released by Knight's company, Death Row Records.

The statements by the rappers raise new questions about the handling of Knight's case, which resulted in a controversial plea bargain in 1995.

Longo is expected to be fired this week by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office because his family's financial ties to Knight created the appearance of a conflict of interest. Knight cut a record deal last year with Longo's 18-year-old daughter and lived in a Malibu Colony home owned by Longo's family while the prosecutor was overseeing Knight's case.

Longo has said that those financial dealings with Knight came well after the plea bargain and therefore created no conflict for him. He denied urging the rappers to settle their civil case. But the statements by the two rappers suggest that Longo exploited contacts in the Knight case to further his daughter's singing career well before the plea bargain.

"I think Larry Longo used his position for his own benefit," George Stanley said. "I'm disgusted by the way this whole thing turned out. I think it's corrupt. We were victims of a crime. We trusted the guy. He told us justice would be served. I feel the system let us down. Looking back on it now, I think Larry Longo used us and Suge for his own purposes."

Westwood attorney Donald R. Wager, who represents Longo, called his client's contacts with individuals associated with Knight's case "harmless."

"Every contact here was innocent and only happened because the people knew each other," Wager said. "Larry never had any intent to corrupt anyone or take advantage of any relationship and nobody had any intention of taking advantage of his position. Larry met these people through his work on the case and that's how contact in areas outside of the case developed. The pattern naturally flows from the fact that people often become involved with people they know."

Longo was assigned to Knight's case five years ago after the rap executive was charged in connection with a July 13, 1992, assault against the Stanley brothers. According to a search warrant affidavit filed in 1992, the brothers were attacked by Knight, who ordered them to their knees at gunpoint and fired one shot near them. Knight then beat Lynwood Stanley with the gun, then ordered both brothers to take off their pants.

On April 8, 1994, the brothers signed a $1-million recording contract with Death Row--part of the settlement of a civil suit the brothers had brought after the 1992 attack. The settlement required the brothers to provide testimonials in the criminal case confirming that they had resolved their differences with Knight.

In an October interview with The Times, Longo complained that the civil settlement sabotaged his chance of taking Knight's case to trial. He said, "After the Stanley brothers took the settlement, there wasn't much left to the case. They screwed me. Those two guys were my last hope."

Frank Oliver, a senior investigator who worked with Longo on Knight's case, said he "never once heard Larry urge the brothers to settle."

But the Stanley brothers give a different account, a version backed up by sources at Death Row Records.

"Now that he is in trouble, he is acting like we ruined the case," said Lynwood Stanley. "But that is the exact opposite of what he told us when we accepted the offer. . . . If he had told us that our settlement was going to ruin the criminal case, we would have never taken it."

Stanley added, "He was not opposed to the settlement. He encouraged us to take it. He told us he was happy about it."

The Stanley brothers said they had not been interviewed by either the district attorney's office or the state attorney general's office, which is conducting a separate investigation of Longo.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Steve Sowders, who has headed the district attorney's investigation of Longo, declined to comment Monday.

A source at the attorney general's office involved in the investigation of Longo declined to comment Monday.

The Stanley brothers say that three months after the civil settlement, in July 1994, while the criminal case against Knight was still pending, Longo asked to bring his teenage daughter, Gina, by for an audition at the Burbank studio where they were recording. The rappers say that Longo, his wife, Aelina, and Gina came to the studio and played them a tape of Gina singing.

"After Gina got done singing, Larry asked us, 'Well, what do you guys think?' And we said, 'Hey, she sings real good,' " George Stanley recalled. "So Larry says, 'Well, do you think you can use her?' We told Larry she didn't really fit our project. We are a rap hip-hop duo, and she sounds more like a pop R&B; singer."

But the rappers say they told Longo that they wouldn't mind producing a record project for his daughter in the future. "Larry said, 'Great!' " Stanley said. "And that's where we left it."

Longo and his wife acknowledged that they brought their daughter to the studio, but they denied that Longo tried to pitch her as a singer for the Stanley brothers' album.

Longo and his wife said they simply wanted an expert evaluation of their daughter's talent--the same thing they requested two years earlier from Jerry Heller, an executive at Ruthless Records who had several brushes with Knight. Longo had interviewed Heller numerous times in connection with the Knight investigation and considered calling him to testify in the criminal case.

In January 1995, Longo invited the rappers' lawyer Scott A. Meehan to join Longo, his wife and son, Frank, for dinner at a Greek restaurant in Malibu. At the dinner, which took place about one month after Longo's son passed the state bar exam, Meehan asked Frank if he wanted to help him finish a couple of cases and possibly take a job at his law firm.

Frank Longo began working for Meehan in February 1995, the same month the district attorney's office cut a plea bargain with Knight.

Meehan and Frank Longo said Larry Longo played no role in getting his son a job at Meehan's firm, which he quit after less than three months.

Under the Feb. 9, 1995, plea bargain, Knight pleaded no contest to two counts of assault and received five years' probation and a suspended nine-year sentence.

On Friday, Knight was sent to prison for nine years for violating his probation.

On Jan. 2, 1996, Gina Longo, then 18, signed a contract with Death Row. In May, Frank Longo leased the family's Malibu house in May for $19,000 per month to Knight attorney David Kenner.

Larry Longo has said he had no idea that Kenner would allow Knight to live in the house. But a document filed Dec. 30 in probate court by Longo's brother, Tom, says otherwise. "Lawrence even told me who the tenant was to be--Suge Knight," Tom Longo says in the statement.

On Sept. 17, after supervisors learned that Knight had been living at the beach house, Longo was abruptly removed from Knight's case.

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