The Los Angeles district attorney's office notified prosecutor Lawrence M. Longo on Tuesday that its decision to fire him will be postponed while investigators broaden a 5-month-old probe to reexamine the plea bargain offered to rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight.
Questions were raised about the controversial 1995 plea bargain in a motion filed two weeks ago by Knight's attorneys contending that prosecutors secured the agreement by making false promises to Knight, owner of the wildly successful Death Row Records.
In addition, the district attorney's office told Longo that investigators want to ask him questions about actions leading up to the plea bargain as disclosed in an article published in The Times on Tuesday.
The plea bargain stems from a 1992 assault on aspiring rappers George and Lynwood Stanley. The two rappers told The Times this week that Longo urged them to accept a settlement in a civil suit in April 1994 that undermined the criminal case against Knight.
The rappers also said 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 Death Row. Longo denied any wrongdoing.
Knight pleaded no contest in 1995 to two felony counts of assault, admitting he used a gun during the attack. He received a suspended nine-year prison term and five years probation. Last Friday, he was sent to prison for the nine-year term for violating probation.
During the 1995 hearing at which the plea bargain was struck, Knight's lawyer David Kenner announced that the two felonies "will be reduced to misdemeanors" once Knight satisfactorily completed probation.
Neither Longo nor Judge John Ouderkirk objected to Kenner's statement, even though under California law the two felonies could not be reduced to misdemeanors because Knight admitted he used a gun.
The district attorney's office has told Longo it intends to fire him because financial dealings between Longo's family and Knight created the appearance of impropriety. Investigators for the district attorney's office and the attorney general's declined comment.