LOS ANGELES – A jury was handed a criminal case Monday against an attorney who briefly represented Marion “Suge” Knight in a case in which the former rap mogul eventually pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter for running over a man with a pickup truck in the parking lot of a Compton hamburger stand.
Matthew Fletcher, now 57, was indicted just over four years ago on one count each of conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to suborn perjury, conspiracy to obstruct justice and accessory after the fact involving Knight’s case, along with one count of perjury under oath involving his testimony at a State Bar hearing involving whether he had texted the brother of a defendant in another case and provided him his banking information.
Another of Knight’s former attorneys, Thaddeus Culpepper, now 48, was also indicted and is still awaiting trial.
In his closing argument last week, Deputy District Attorney Stefan Mrakich reminded the downtown Los Angeles jury of his remark in his opening statement that Fletcher’s “own words will bury him,” arguing that Fletcher and others were involved in a conspiracy to either get the case against Knight dismissed or for Knight to be acquitted through false testimony when they knew that he was guilty.
The prosecutor urged jurors to return a “swift verdict of guilty.”
Fletcher — who was acting as his own attorney and was not in the courtroom when Mrakich gave his closing argument — said he had proven that the entire working theory of the case was “wrong” and accused prosecutors of making personal attacks “when they know what they’re saying is baloney.”
“There is no evidence that I gave anyone anything, none,” he said, telling the panel that he had challenged prosecutors to call in a witness to say that he had offered to pay anyone even a penny.
“They have no evidence that I …. entered into a conspiracy with anybody,” Fletcher said.
He told jurors that they “have to vote not guilty” and that “the only people who can stop this insanity is you guys.”
Deputy District Attorney Phil Stirling told the jury in his rebuttal argument that Fletcher is “wildly dishonest at the highest level,” arguing that Fletcher “has lied to you repeatedly.”
“You can’t have a justice system that allows attorneys to lie and manipulate … We need this system to be pure, as pure as possible,” the prosecutor said Monday in his rebuttal argument a few hours before Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli gave jurors the case. “This case is entirely about dishonesty.”
In one jailhouse recording, Fletcher told Knight in March 2015 that $20,000 to $25,000 would be a fair investment to secure his freedom.
Fletcher also told an informant for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in May 2016 that witnesses in Knight’s case needed to be paid for their testimony, and subsequently told Knight that Cle “Bone” Sloan, who survived being struck by the truck, needed to be paid money for his testimony, according to the grand jury indictment that was handed up in January 2018.
Knight — who was initially charged with murder for Terry Carter’s Jan. 29, 2015, death — pleaded no contest in October 2018 to voluntary manslaughter and admitted that he used a deadly weapon — a truck — during the commission of the crime in the parking lot of Tam’s Burgers in the 1200 block of West Rosecrans Avenue.
Knight is serving a 28-year state prison term.
Mark Blankenship, a one-time business partner of Knight, pleaded no contest in June 2019 to a felony conspiracy charge stemming from the sale of video footage of the crime and was immediately sentenced to five years probation.
Knight’s fiancee, Toi-Lin Kelly, pleaded no contest in 2017 for conspiracy to violate a court order involving video evidence that was under seal, and she was subsequently sentenced to three yeas in jail for violating her probation by having indirect communication with Knight and helping him violate orders restricting his use of jailhouse phones.