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1 JACKIE LACEY

2 District Attorney of Los Angeles County


BY: STEFAN C. MRAKICH (SBN: 181051)
3 Deputy District Attorney
Public Integrity Division
4 211 West Temple Street, 11th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90012
5 213-257-2478
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7 SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA


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FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES
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THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, Case No.: BA452832
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Plaintiff, PEOPLE'S PETITION FOR A
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COURT INQUIRY REGARDING
13 v. POTENTIAL AND/OR ACTUAL
CONFLICT(S) OF INTEREST AND
14 APPOINTMENT OF SEPARATE
01 MARION HUGH “SUGE” KNIGHT ADVISORY COUNSEL
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Defendant.
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Date: August 10, 2017
17 Time: 8:30 a.m.
Court: Dept. 100
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19 TO THE HONORABLE SCOTT GORDON, JUDGE OF THE ABOVE- ENTITLED COURT,

20 COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT, AND DEFENDANT:

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PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that on August 10, 2017, or soon thereafter, in the above-
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23 mentioned court, counsel for the People will PETITION THIS COURT to conduct an inquiry into

24 potential and/or actual conflict(s) of interest by defense counsel in this case. This Petition is based
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on the attached Statement of Facts, Points and Authorities and any other pleadings, records, files,
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documents, evidence, and argument, oral or written, that the Court may allow at the hearing of
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this motion.
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
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Dated August 9, 2017
2 Respectfully submitted,
JACKIE LACEY
3 District Attorney of Los Angeles County
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Digitally signed by: Stefan C. Mrakich
Stefan DN: CN = Stefan C. Mrakich C = US O = District

By _____________________
C. Attorney's Office OU = Public Intergrity Division
Date: 2017.08.09 15:00:08 -07'00'
Mrakich

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Stefan C. Mrakich
7 Deputy District Attorney

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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
1 I.
2
INTRODUCTION
3
A. Background of Criminal Threats Charge
4

5 Defendant Marion Hugh “Suge” Knight (hereinafter the defendant) is the former owner
6 of Death Row Records, a recording studio specializing in rap and hip-hop music. Andre Young
7 (“Dr. Dre”) and O’Shea Jackson (“Ice Cube”) are former rap artists and two of the founding
8 members of the rap group “N.W.A.” At their height, N.W.A. signed with Knight and Death Row
9 Records. The group eventually severed ties with Death Row, causing an irreconcilable rift with
10 the defendant.
11 The facts of this case, BA452832, stem from the production of “Straight Out of
12 Compton,” a movie about the early years of N.W.A. In 2014, the defendant, angry that he was
13 not included in the planning or production of the film and that he was not being financially
14 compensated for the use of his likeness, began threatening the film’s director, Felix Gary Gray
15 (“Gray”). Specifically, on August 8, 2014, the defendant, both orally and via text, threatened
16 Gray with bodily harm if he did not acquiesce to his demands for either financial compensation
17 or a stop to the film production.
18 On January 29, 2015, the defendant drove to the set of Straight Out of Compton and
19 demanded to see Dr. Dre or Ice Cube; on-set security denied him access. After repeated
20 requests, the defendant refused to leave. Eventually Cle “Bone” Sloan, a hired consultant for the
21 film, as well as three sheriff deputies, forced Knight to leave the lot. This initial dispute led,
22 ultimately, to a confrontation at Tam’s Burgers in Compton where the defendant attempted to
23 kill Sloan. For further information, please see below in section Factual Summary of the
24 Murder section III. A.
25 The People eventually sought and ultimately obtained an indictment against the
26 defendant, charging him with one count of criminal threats against Gray, in violation of Penal
27 Code §422. Following the unsealing of the indictment, on August 3, 2017, the defendant
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
1 appeared in Department 100 and pled not guilty to the charge. Appearing on his behalf was
2 attorney Matthew Powell Fletcher. (Fletcher)
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B. People’s Request for Court Inquiry
4

5 The People hereby petition this Court to undertake an inquiry into possible conflicts
6 of interest for Fletcher, who is currently counsel of record for the defendant. As will be
7 shown below, each of these potential conflicts poses a direct threat to the fundamental
8 constitutional rights of the defendant, the integrity of the criminal justice system, and to the
9 validity of any resulting criminal conviction in this case.
10 Specifically, the People bring to the Court’s attention that investigators have gathered
11 evidence of possible witness tampering, bribery, conspiracy to violate a court order and
12 obstruction of justice on the part of attorney Fletcher in the case of People v. Marion “Suge”
13 Knight, case number TA136401. That matter is currently pending trial in Department 101
14 before the Honorable Judge Ronald Coen.
15 The People take no position on the outcome of this issue at this time, as the first step is
16 for the Court to make an inquiry, as is requested in this Petition. The defendant has a clear and
17 crucial right to choose his own representation and to have uninterrupted and confidential
18 relationships with his counsel. However, the law dictates that special steps must be taken to
19 ensure that the defendant is aware of any potential conflict(s) that could deny him effective
20 assistance of counsel. Specifically, the People are not moving to disqualify counsel at this time,
21 but are requesting that the Court: (1) conduct its own independent inquiry into the possible and/or
22 actual conflicts of interests set forth below; (2) make the defendant aware of any possible and/or
23 actual conflicts; (3) take appropriate steps to appoint advisory counsel and obtain waivers from
24 the defendant on the record, if necessary; and (4) if the Court finds potential and/or actual
25 conflicts that cannot be adequately addressed by a waiver, the Court exercise its discretion to
26 remove conflicted defense counsel. The Court should act to protect the defendant’s
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
1 constitutional rights and to prevent appellate challenges based on conflict of interest from
2 compromising any jury verdict in this case.
3

4 II.
5

6 BRIEF SUMMARY OF LEGAL AUTHORITY


7

8 The United States Supreme Court has set forth the constitutional principle, that “while the
9 right to select and be represented by one’s preferred attorney is comprehended by the Sixth
10 Amendment, the essential aim of the Amendment is to guarantee an effective advocate for each
11 criminal defendant rather than to ensure that a defendant will inexorably be represented by the
12 lawyer he prefers.” (Wheat v. United States (1988) 486 U.S. 153, 159 (emphasis added).) An
13 effective advocate, as is due to each defendant by the U.S. Constitution, is one who is
14 “unhindered by a conflict of interests.” (Holloway v. Arkansas (1978) 435 U.S. 475, 483, n. 5.)
15 Thus, the U.S. Supreme Court in Wheat ruled, “a court confronted with and alerted to possible
16 conflicts of interest must take adequate steps to ascertain whether the conflicts warrant separate
17 counsel.” (Wheat, supra, 486 U.S. at 159 (emphasis added)
18 In Wheat, the prosecution, citing potential conflicts of interest, objected to defendant
19 Wheat’s efforts to substitute his attorney for an attorney who had represented two other
20 defendants charged with crimes related to the same “far-flung drug distribution conspiracy.”
21 (Wheat, supra, 486 U.S. at 153.) The defendants in that case offered to file a waiver of any
22 conflict that might exist. The Court, however, rejected the defendants’ proffers of waivers, and
23 recognized that, where an actual conflict is shown, the trial court “may decline a proffer of
24 waiver, and insist that defendants be separately represented.” (Id at 162.) Quoting from United
25 States v. Dolan (3rd Cir. 1978) 570 F.2d 1177, 1184, the Court explained the need for this rule:
26 “Such representation [with an actual conflict of interest] not only constitutes a breach of
27 professional ethics and invites disrespect for the integrity of the court, but it is also detrimental
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
1 to the independent interest of the trial judge to be free from future attacks over the adequacy of
2 the waiver or the fairness of the proceedings in his own court and the subtle problems
3 implicating the defendant’s comprehension of the waiver.” (Wheat, supra, 486 U.S. at 162.)
4 Indeed, professional ethics and the integrity of the courts were a central focus in the U.S.
5 Supreme Court’s analysis in Wheat. The Wheat Court stated:
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Federal courts have an independent interest in ensuring that
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criminal trials are conducted within the ethical standards of the
8 profession and that legal proceedings appear fair to all who observe
them. Both the American Bar Association's Model Code of
9 Professional Responsibility and its Model Rules of Professional
10 Conduct, as well as the rules of the California Bar Association (which
governed the attorneys in this case), impose limitations on multiple
11 representation of clients, [Citations omitted.] Not only the interest of a
criminal defendant but the institutional interest in the rendition of just
12 verdicts in criminal cases may be jeopardized by unregulated multiple
13 representation. (Id. at 160.)

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Certainly, the California state courts have the same independent interest identified by the U.S.
15
Supreme Court in Wheat.
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Significantly, the majority in Wheat, in addressing the issue of waiver, recognized that
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trial court judges are not always in a position to see and predict, in “the murkier pre-trial context
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when relationships between parties are seen through a glass, darkly,” actual conflicts that might
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arise at trial. (Id. at 162.) In addition, there may be a situation in which “the willingness of an
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attorney to obtain such waivers from his clients may bear an inverse relation to the care with which
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he conveys all the necessary information to them.” (Id. at 163.) Based on these considerations,
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the Court ruled: “For these reasons we think the [trial court] must be allowed substantial latitude
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in refusing waivers of conflicts of interest not only in those rare cases where an actual conflict
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may be demonstrated before trial, but in the more common cases where a potential for conflict
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exists which may or may not burgeon into an actual conflict as the trial progresses.” (Id.) The
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Court went on to say, ‘The evaluation of the facts and circumstances of each case under this
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standard must be left primarily to the informed judgment of the trial court.” (Id. at 164.)
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
1 California cases as well have addressed similar situations related to potential conflicts of
2 interest. See People v. Mai (2013) 57 Cal. 4th 986; People v. Alcocer (1988) 206 Cal. App. 3d
3 951; People v. Almanza (2015) 233 Cal. App. 4th 990, infra, in the Legal Conclusion section.
4 In the matter before the court, as noted above, investigators have accumulated evidence that
5 Fletcher has engaged in potential bribery of witnesses, subornation of perjury and obstruction of
6 justice centering on his involvement in case TA136401. This poses, potentially, a conflict of
7 interest on the part of counsel in this matter and the People submit that the court is therefore
8 mandated to conduct an independent inquiry.
9

10 III.
11 FACTUAL SUMMARY OF POTENTIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST
12

13 A. Murder of Terry Carter and Attempted Murder of Cle Sloan


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As noted above, following the initial dispute on the movie set, on January 29, 2015, in the
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parking lot of Tam’s Burgers located in the city of Compton, defendant Marion Hugh “Suge”
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Knight, while driving a Ford Raptor truck, attempted to murder victim Cle “Bone” Sloan. After
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trampling Sloan, defendant then collided head-on with victim Terry Carter. Sloan suffered
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minor injuries; Carter died as a result of the collision, suffering blunt force trauma to his head
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and body. Surveillance video cameras at Tam’s Burgers (hereinafter the Video) captured the
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crime.
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22 B. Charges filed on February 3, 2015

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On February 3, 2015, the People filed a four count felony complaint in case number
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TA136401, alleging that the defendant, Marion Hugh “Suge” Knight, committed the crimes of
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murder, attempted murder, and hit and run. On April 16, 2015, the defendant was held to answer
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on counts one through three; he was subsequently arraigned on the felony information on April
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30, 2015. (The matter is currently set for trial, tentatively, in January 2018 in Department 101
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
1 before the Honorable Judge Ronald Coen.) (A true and correct copy of the Minute order in
2 TA136401 is attached as Exhibit 1.)
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C. Protective Order For Video Issued
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On February 9, 2015, in Dept. SC-J, Compton court, the People provided discovery to
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attorney David Kenner, defendant’s attorney of record at the time; this discovery included the
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previously mentioned Video. The same day, Judge Ricardo Ocampo signed the People’s
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“Protective Order Under Seal.” (A true and correct copy of the Protective Order is Attached at
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Exhibit 2.) Counsel for the defendant acknowledged the Order. The People’s Order specifically
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addressed the Video and stated in pertinent part:
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[Paragraph 3] Counsel for the defense is specifically prohibited from providing a
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copy of the documents / recordings to a defendant or to any other person except
12 new counsel whose substitution has been approved by the court… [Paragraph
8] It is prohibited for any person to provide the documents / recordings to any
13 representative of the media, press or other person or entity. (Emphasis added.)
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D. Fletcher Becomes Attorney of Record
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On March 9, 2015, the defendant retained Fletcher as attorney of record in the murder
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case. Fletcher represented defendant during the April 2015 preliminary hearing; he was
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subsequently relieved as counsel.
18

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E. TMZ Releases Video Online
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21 On March 9, 2015, the same day that Fletcher became counsel of record, TMZ released
22 the Video on its website. TMZ posted the video at 1:00 a.m. (A True and Correct copy of a
23 Screen Shot from the TMZ website is attached as Exhibit 3.)
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F. Investigation into Possible Criminal Activity by the Defense Team
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26 In March of 2015, the lead investigator in the murder case, Sgt. Richard Biddle of the Los
27 Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) Homicide Division, became aware of efforts by
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
1 the defendant to use county jail phones to attempt to extort money to assist in his legal fees and
2 to help him post bail. On March 17, 2015, Judge Ronald Coen signed a court order restricting
3 the defendant’s use of county jail phones and his access to visitors and mail.
4 In April of 2016, Sgt. Biddle received confidential information that defendant and his
5 legal team were attempting to “cultivate” witnesses to testify falsely on the defendant’s benefit.
6 As a result, LASD launched an investigation into the activities of the defendant’s legal team,
7 including Fletcher, along with associates of the defendant, including Toilin Kelly, his fiancé, and
8 Mark Blankenship, his friend and business partner. Detectives Francis Hardiman and Mark
9 Lillienfeld from LASD Homicide assumed the duties of lead investigators in this parallel
10 investigation.
11 1. Fletcher and the Conspiracy to Violate the 2/9/15 Protective Order
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On March 20, 2015, Sgt. Biddle authored a search warrant for the cell phones of both
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Blankenship and Kelly. In addition, Sgt. Biddle monitored all of the defendant’s jail calls
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involving Blankenship and Kelly. After a review of the text messages in both phones and the
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recordings, investigators uncovered evidence of a potential conspiracy to violate Judge
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Ocampo’s discovery order. Specifically, between February 9, 2015 and March 9, 2015,
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Blankenship and Kelly actively engaged with Fletcher and others to sell the Video in violation of
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the February 9 protective order. (A True and Correct copy of Blankenship’s Text Message is
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attached Exhibit 4, a 15-page document containing the relevant text messages from
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Blankenship’s Phone.) (A true and correct copy of Kelly’s Text Messages is attached as Exhibit
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5, a 42-page document containing the relevant text message from Kelly’s phone.) A very brief
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summary of the texts and calls follows.
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24 a. February 11, 2015 Text

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On 2/11/15, two days after the defense’s receipt of the Video and the issuance of the
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Protective Order, Kelly sent a text to TMZ on-air correspondent Raquel Harper, stating “[w]e
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
1 are gonna be releasing the video, you might want to start the conversation with Harvey.1”
2 Harper responded, “Call me ASAP.”
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b. February 12, 2015 Jail Call
4

5 On February 12, 2015, at approximately 8:20 p.m., the defendant, Kelly and Blankenship

6 conversed during a three-way telephone call initiated by the defendant from the County Jail.

7 After a brief discussion about enhancing the video, Kelly attempted to communicate in code with

8 the defendant, specifically about selling the Video for $100,000 to $150,000.

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Later in the call, TMZ correspondent Harper joined the conversation. She greeted the
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defendant by saying, “Hey.” Defendant immediately responded, “Definitely yeah.” After
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exchanging niceties, Harper inquired, “I was watching this movie and was thinking about
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watching it again, so it’s all good?” Defendant responded, “definitely.” The woman explained,
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“When I go see it again, like on Monday, I will let you know exactly the outcome of the movie.”
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(A true and correct copy of the transcript of the relevant portions of the February 12, 2015
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recording is attached as Exhibit 6.)
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c. February 25, 2015 Text Message
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In his texts, Blankenship clearly acknowledged the existence of the Order. On February
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25, 2015, Blankenship’s assistant sent him a text regarding sending the video to a public
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relations executive. Blankenship responded, “Please hold off on those details -- say it is
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confidential and leak nothing. There is a protective order on the video. Issued by the court.”
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d. March 1, 2015 Text Messages
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On March 1, 2015, Blankenship alerted his business partners that “Suge” had a new
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lawyer. His text read as follows, “I am about to meet with Suge’s ‘next’ attorney and Toi.”
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Based on a review of all available evidence, it was apparent that Blankenship was referring to
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Fletcher.
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1 This appears to be a reference to TMZ Producer and on-air host, Harvey Levin.
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
1 Blankenship and Fletcher then met Kelly and viewed the video. Immediately following
2 the meeting, Blankenship sent a text to the same partners stating:
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Just pitched the Free Suge app to Toi and saw enhanced vid of the incident. She
4 bought into it verbally. We need to lock her cuz she had the vid – we maneuvered
it out of Kenner. New atty says ok to release it. Imagine $5 per view.
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e. March 2, 2015 Text Messages
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Kelly reinitiated contact with the Harper to negotiate the sale, but cautioned that the
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defendant was also working on an alternate deal. On March 2, 2015, Kelly texted, “I have the
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video by the way, but I believe he wants to take another deal on it…” Harper responded by
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requesting to meet immediately.
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11 On March 4, 2015, Kelly and Harper exchanged the following texts:

12 TK: Just so you know 75 is a done deal.


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TMZ: K working on it.
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TK: Ok so now his ATTNY is putting pressure on me to get the
15 video out…Can they do 65?
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TMZ: I will let u know tomm they are maybe considering the 70.
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TK: Ok…Just keep me posted. But hurry because we have to get it
18 out soon!!!!
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TMZ: I am trying.
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TK: Its money and Harvey back.
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22 TMZ: And we just broke huge story.

23 TMZ: They refuse.


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TMZ: They won’t go past 65.
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TK: So tell him they WILL do 55, RIGHT?
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TK: Also, when do you guys on putting it out if he accepts?
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28 TK: Plan on…


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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
1
TK: I know he wants to give it to YOU as I want to also, I just have
2 to confirm he is ok with 55.

3 TMZ: Ok.
4
TMZ: ASAP I think.
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TK: Ok he usually calls at 12 so I’ll hit you up as soon as I talk to
6 him.
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TK: He said cool.
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9 f. March 5, 2015 Phone call and Text Messages

10 On March 5, 2015, Kelly spoke with the defendant; she indicated they (TMZ) needed to

11 hear from the defendant directly. She then handed the phone to Harper. The defendant told her,

12 “What she says is perfect.” The woman responded, “55?” He responded, “Okay, that is perfect.

13 Thank you.”

14 Less than an hour after the call, Kelly texted Blankenship and attorney Fletcher, “Matt—

15 the letter will be out soon.”

16 g. March 9, 2015 Text Messages

17 On March 9, at 7:00 a.m., 6 hours after the release of the Video and hours prior to his

18 first appearance on the murder case, Fletcher sent the following text to Kelly: “That went well.”

19 On the same day, around 12:30 p.m., following an interview with TMZ, Fletcher texted

20 Blankenship “we had a great plan.”

21 In summarizing the communications between February 9, 2015 and the release of the

22 Video on March 9, 2015, it is clear that Fletcher agreed to and even encouraged the sale of the

23 Video, despite the existence of the protective order.

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25 2. Fletcher and the Evidence of Potential Bribery, Subornation of Perjury and

26 Obstruction of Justice

27 During the months of February and March, 2015, Kelly and Blankenship engaged in

28 numerous recorded conversations with the defendant from the Los Angeles County Men’s
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
1 Central Jail. On several occasions, the defendant discussed procuring witnesses to the murder,
2 including providing money in exchange for their testimony.
3 On February 3, 2016, the Honorable Judge William C. Ryan granted the People’s request
4 for an Ex Parte Order Regarding Defendant’s Jail Calls and Jail Visits. Specifically, Judge Ryan
5 ordered the following:
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The People’s request for permission to listen to telephone calls
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made by Defendant to any person other than his attorney of record,
8 or investigator retained by his attorney, is GRANTED. But if
Defendant calls a person, who then conferences in Defendant’s
9 attorney…then Defendant has broken the applicable attorney-
client privilege, and the People are free to monitor the call. [A
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True and Correct copy of the Order is attached as Exhibit 7.]
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In July 2016, the court further ruled that its Order was retroactive to February 1, 2015.
12

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What follows is a brief synopsis of several of the relevant calls from March of 2015.

14 a. Defendant calls to Kelly (and one unidentified female)

15
3/13/15: Defendant told Kelly that there is a witness who will do
16 whatever is needed on paper to say they saw a gun. “Witnesses are
going to do what they are supposed to do.”
17

18 3/13/15: Kelly said that Blankenship put “Reggie” on the payroll.


Kelly tried to explain what “Reggie” was going to do but Knight
19 told her to stop talking on the phone. Kelly added that
Blankenship was going to meet another witness. During the course
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of this conversation, Kelly connected the defendant to a third party,
21 an unidentified male. After a discussion about the male’s financial
problems, defendant told him about a “little project coming up.”
22 There was a discussion about “two burners” at the crime scene.
The defendant advised the male to “stay focused” and to answer
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his phone when a call comes. He said that “in a week or so,
24 something would be coming your way.” He then advised that
Kelly would give him the rest of the details. Kelly acknowledged.
25

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3/16/15: Defendant call to Kelly. Kelly said “Matt” (attorney
Fletcher) found other witnesses. She said “Matt” put some
27 “bread” out there to get witnesses to come around.
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
3/16/15: Defendant call to unidentified female. He tells her he
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just needs one person to say there were guns at the scene.
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b. Defendant call to Blankenship and Fletcher
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4 It should be noted that on several occasions during these recorded calls, Blankenship

5 clarified with the defendant that the witnesses being discussed would be procured by

6 “legitimate” means and that they would just “tell the truth.”

7 The most significant call occurred between the defendant, Blankenship and Fletcher on

8 March 16, 2015 at approximately 7:00 p.m. Blankenship told the defendant they were going to

9 “nail the other people…in a legitimate way” that were there and they were going to get their

10 testimony.

11 During this call, Blankenship connected the defendant to his attorney of record, Fletcher.

12 (A true and correct copy of the relevant portions of the transcript is attached as Exhibit 8.)

13 Consistent with Judge Ryan’s February 3, 2016 Order, the People and law enforcement

14 monitored the call. At the 7:25 minute mark, Fletcher came on the line; Blankenship remained

15 on the line and continued to participate in the conversation. There was an initial discussion

16 about “guns” being present at the crime scene and Fletcher referenced “Bone” (victim) and

17 “Knob,” (witness) as having guns. Blankenship added that guns were on the movie set prior to

18 the crime. Then Fletcher explained his case strategy to the defendant:

19 MF: Knob is going to get himself into situation where it’s like
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this. We’re going to sit him down and tape his ass. It ain’t in his
house (inaudible) any expectation of privacy. We’ll tape the fuck
21 out his ass…
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The conversation then turned to the subject of witness Marvin Kincy. Investigators had
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previously identified Kincy on the Tam’s video removing an unidentified black object from
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victim Sloan while Sloan was unconscious.
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26 MF: I’m telling him (Marvin) flat out I don’t need you to name
names, you need the dudes take them fucking guns off these
27 motherfucker, yes or no? Yes. Did they say something happened
at the movie set and they told all you guys to come over there?
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Yes. And you all went over there and you saw these guns removed
1
from these two people. Yes, yes. Fine, dude, you’re done. Here’s
2 your money. (chuckles) I don’t care.

3
Fletcher ended the conversation with both the defendant and Blankenship by giving his
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“summary” of the state of his investigation.
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MF: I’ve got motherfuckers out there now...I’m paying you
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(referring to witnesses) motherfuckers $100 an hour each…the first
7 person there is the one who gets the money. I’ll pay anything...if
we can get these three, this is heaven to me, if we can get the two
8 or three versions from the bikers on tape and we can get (recording
9
interrupts) we’re done. It’s going home time. Right? That’s a fair
motherfucking investment, you know, 20, 25 thousand dollars to
10 pay to these motherfuckers to get home? (chuckles) Shit. There
you go, boom, boom, boom.
11

12 Based on the totality of these conversations, the evidence is clear that as early as March 9, 2015,
13 Fletcher, Kelly and Blankenship had an understanding that they were going to assist the
14 defendant in procuring witnesses for his defense, which included payments for fabricated
15 testimony.
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c. Cooperator placed on County Jail Bus with Defendant
17

18 On May 9, 2016, at about 0900 hours, Detectives Hardiman and Lillienfeld from Los

19 Angeles Sheriff’s Homicide Division placed a law enforcement cooperator, who used the

20 moniker KB, on a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department transportation bus. The only other

21 passenger on the bus was the defendant. Investigators recorded their conversation.

22 When the defendant and KB engaged, most of the conversation was small talk.

23 Investigators had instructed KB not to talk to the defendant about the facts of his current

24 criminal cases. During the entire conversation, there were no discussions about the facts of the

25 defendant’s filed criminal cases.

26 At 24 minutes and 34 seconds into the recording, the following exchange took place:

27 KB: Look blood I ain’t trying to know nothing about nothing know what I’m saying
28 sometime a motherfucking need some help
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
1
MK: Always, ain’t no sometime, always
2
KB: I’m on my way home blood… Anything you need
3
MK: You know, I’m going to find you… I ain’t got no pencil
4

5 KB: You got somebody I can get in touch with?

6 MK: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah


7
KB: Look, I seen a boy on TV… A brother… guess he was your lawyer or
8 something… I guess one day you was sick or something, he gave an interview… You
was taking medications or something
9

10 MK: No, my appendix busted

11 KB: Oh, did it?


12 (The two discuss MK’s medical issues briefly)
13
KB: What’s his name, the baldheaded brother?
14
MK: Culpepper?
15

16 KB: No, the other one…

17 MK: Oh, Fletcher…


18
KB: Fletcher, is he cool?
19
MK: Yeah... I got a guy named Culpepper you can get in touch with… But you know,
20 still, uh, David Kenner, if you call him and leave your phone number I’ll find you
21
KB: Ok
22
MK: 818-995-1195
23
KB: 818-995-1195
24

25 MK: 818-995-1195… He's listed too... David Kenner

26 KB: David Kenner


27
MK: I'm gonna fuck with you...
28
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
d. Cooperator Contacts Fletcher
1

2 On May 10, 2016, at about 1345 hours, KB went to the office of Matthew Fletcher,
3 located at 235 E. Broadway Suite 224, Long Beach, California. At the location, KB contacted a
4 female Hispanic who identified herself as the secretary for Matthew Fletcher. The secretary
5 provided KB a card which contained a photograph of Matthew Fletcher, and several telephone
6 numbers. Included amongst the phone numbers was a cellular telephone number, 562-762-7072
7 and a business phone number of 562-437-0500.
8 On May 10, 2016, at about 1345 hours, KB had a text exchange with Fletcher. Fletcher
9 indicated that he would call KB.
10 On May 10, 2016, at about 1547 hours, KB received a phone call from a 562-762-7072.
11 The phone call was recorded. Detective Hardiman immediately recognized the caller’s voice as
12 that of Fletcher because he had several criminal cases where he was the defense attorney. In
13 addition, the caller identified himself as Matthew Fletcher. He told KB to call him Matt. (A true
14 and correct copy of the transcript of the call is attached as Exhibit 9.)
15 The following statements were made at the listed times:
16
KB 1.29 I was on the bus with Suge… If you need anything done, I’m your man
17
MF 1.42 Me and Suge grew up together
18

19 MF 4.22 I’ll go pull his ass out tomorrow

20 KB 4.24 We go back too… I’m from the Jungle… I asked him if he needed any
21
help, if there is anything I can do I’m down because that’s the homie

22 MF 4.45 KB, here’s the problem… The cats he’s working with, we can’t trust, you
feel me?
23

24 MF 5.28 … Now we’re at the point where him (Bone) and a couple of the other
cats out there, they need money… before you give them fucking money I said they
25 gotta give us something back… it’s just the way it fucking is… he’s gonna take care
of you, but you gotta take care of him… These cats sit there, and I get this shit set up
26 so to speak so they can come give their little rendition and then these motherfucker’s get
27 short on the money… “We can’t write checks”… This is Compton, we don’t write
checks!
28
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
1
KB 6.08 I feel you…
2
MF 6.10 you gotta let these Pasadena bloods be who they are…
3
MF 6.46 but look, these cats who can help him, who got the keys to the prison it’s
4
his homies, they are there to help but every time I set it up these cats are, “No man, it’s
5 against the law!” I ain’t having no young brother tell me what’s against the law! First of
all, I know what the fucks against the law… Second of all, I’m not doing nothing that’s
6 against the law… And third of all, they already got a fucking DA, I don’t need you being
7
a DA… If this cats ready to come forward and say, “Look man, we had guns, that’s
what we had, you know we did whoopty whoop… I don’t care why he says it… If
8 he… If someone down the road says, “Oh, they gave us 50 racks” … Say okay, well
prove that shit … All I know is I got you on tape saying, you had the mother fucking
9 heat… That’s all we need… I said so… We got this group of people who you know,
10 they want to play, they want to play legal Eagle I guess…

11 MF 8.24 This is just too obvious to me… These motherfuckers’ got a price,
let’s get that mother fucking price paid… Shit, I told Suge you can always make
12 some more money you can’t make any more freedom though… I don’t even know
13 what the cat wants you to do… I mean, because I know what he wants you to do, but I
can’t put you out there KB… These cats we got to work with, I don’t trust them
14 myself… I’m going to go down tomorrow and see Suge… This shit should’ve been
taking care of so long ago…
15

16 MF 9.41 We got the same friends… I don’t want to put you in places where if I
can’t tell you we’re okay… If I can’t tell say I’m okay, I’m sure the fuck not going to tell
17 you you’re okay
18
From the conversation, at least on its face, it appeared that Fletcher had previously
19
conspired with the defendant to engage in acts of criminal conduct. In addition, Fletcher, in
20
furtherance of the on-going conspiracy, arguably wanted KB to commit perjury. However,
21
Fletcher felt he could not engage in this behavior currently because the other lawyers on the case
22
were unwilling to participate in any illegal conduct. Fletcher intimated that he was going to talk
23
to Knight to rectify the situation.
24
As of result of this exchange, on May 12, 2016, Judge Ryan granted the People’s ex parte
25
request, pursuant to Evidence Code section 956, for an order allowing law enforcement to listen
26
to any privileged attorney-client communications between defendant Knight and attorney
27
Fletcher. The order allowed law enforcement to listen to and monitor attorney-client recordings
28
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
1 and visitations commencing May 9, 2016. The Order allowed only the investigating agency to
2 listen to the privileged calls; the Prosecution was prohibited from listening to any calls. (A true
3 and correct copy of the Order is Attached as Exhibit 10.)
4
e. Attorney Culpepper Contacts with Cooperator
5

6 On May 18, 2016 at about 0824 hours KB received a call from 626-786-2779. The phone
7 call was recorded. An internet search of the number revealed that it belonged to Thaddeus J.
8 Culpepper, attorney at law.2 The record reflects that Culpepper has been a legal advisor to the
9 defendant at various points in the case. In the call, the caller identified himself as Thaddeus
10 Culpepper. KB asked if he could call Culpepper back. Culpepper agreed.
11 The only person to whom the number 424-835-7351 (KB’s phone number) was given was
12 Fletcher. The number was obtained solely for this case. No other person had the number. The
13 only way that Culpepper could have obtained the number was via Fletcher or via the defendant
14 who received the information from Fletcher. Culpepper ultimately reached an agreement with
15 KB to provide him money in exchange for his sworn testimony that he was present at the time of
16 the crime and witnesses evidence favorable to the defense.3
17

18 IV.
19 LEGAL CONCLUSION BASED ON THE FACTS
20

21 A. Evidence of Potential Criminal Behavior


22 Based on the totality of the evidence, it appears that the defendant, along with Fletcher and
23 others, including Blankenship and Kelly, have engaged in potentially criminal behavior, including
24 conspiracy to violate a court order, bribe witnesses, suborn perjury and to commit obstruction of
25 justice.
26

27
2 Culpepper also represents Knight in an unrelated robbery charge, SA089020.
28 3 The evidence of Culpepper’s potential obstruction of justice will be discussed at a later point in time.
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
1 As noted during the March 15, 2015 three-way call, both the defendant and Fletcher appeared
2 to agree that witnesses would need to be paid in order for the defendant to obtain his freedom.
3 Clearly, the defense centered on the idea that the victims and other persons present during the
4 crime possessed guns. However, as of the March 15 call, no evidence, save for the grainy Tam’s
5 video, had emerged to suggest that anyone either pointed or held a gun at the time Knight ran his car
6 over both victims. In fact, the witnesses interviewed clearly stated that they did not see any
7 guns. Knight himself never mentioned a gun during his January 30, 2015 interview, only that he
8 had been “ambushed.”
9 Arguably, the defendant and Fletcher both knew that the Video would not be sufficient to
10 prove the presence of handguns and that witnesses would have to testify that they personally saw
11 them. Whether the victim or victims had a gun is immaterial on the issue of bribery; the defendant
12 and Fletcher knew that to secure this testimony, money would have to exchange hands. This is the
13 essence of bribery: to influence a witness in exchange for him providing material testimony in a
14 criminal proceeding.
15 During his May 9, 2016 encounter with KB, Knight was told by KB that he had no
16 connection to crime nor anything relevant to add to this investigation, yet it did not stop Knight
17 from providing the contact information of his attorney, David Kenner, along with the name
18 Culpepper.
19 On May 10, one day after his encounter with Knight, KB first spoke to Fletcher. It should be
20 noted that Fletcher did not ask this potentially critical witness the most basic of questions that an
21 attorney might ask of someone he’s just met, such as “how are you related to case?” or “what
22 information do you have?” or “let’s set up an interview with my investigator!” Instead, he tells KB
23 “I know what he (Knight) wants you to do but I can’t put you out there, KB, because I’m sitting here
24 going like if these cats, we gotta work with, I don’t trust them myself.” Again, curiously, Fletcher
25 told KB that they had to remain cautious about how they proceeded and that he had to consult with
26 Knight before taking action.
27

28
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
1 On May 10, KB provided Fletcher with the (424) number. No one, other than KB and his
2 law enforcement handlers, had this number. When Culpepper, on May 18, called KB, it is clear that
3 Fletcher provided this number directly to Culpepper, or provided it to a member of the defense team
4 who in turn provided it to Culpepper. Either way, it demonstrated Fletcher’s intent, as a member of
5 the conspiracy, to keep KB under the defense umbrella and potentially use him as a witness to
6 testify falsely at a later date. Fletcher clearly knew that KB was not a witness to the crime and, if he
7 did not intend to use KB to testify falsely, Fletcher would simply have told KB he had no interest in
8 KB’s statement.
9 B. Fletcher’s Potential Conflict of Interest
10 “When a trial court knows or should know that defense counsel has a possible conflict of
11 interest with his client, it must inquire into the matter and act in response to what its inquiry
12 discovers.” (People v. Jones (1991) 53 Ca1.3d 1115, 1136 [citation omitted]; see also People v.
13 Frye (1998) 18 Cal.4th 894, 999.) It is immaterial how the court learns or is put on notice of the
14 possibility of conflict, or whether the issue is raised by the prosecution or the defense. (See Wood,
15 supra, 450 U.S. at p. 272-273 [issue raised by prosecution]; Holloway, supra, 435 U.S. at p. 484
16 [issue raised by defense].) When the prosecution becomes aware of circumstances indicating a
17 possible conflict of interest between a defendant and his counsel, the prosecution has a legitimate
18 interest in seeking a court determination of defense counsel’s potential conflict before trial, rather
19 than waiting for the defendant to challenge the conviction on appeal. (People v. Harris (2005) 37
20 Cal.4th 310, 342-343.)
21 The federal and state constitutional right to counsel in a criminal case also includes the
22 right to representation free of conflicts of interest that may compromise the attorney’s loyalty to
23 the client and impair counsel’s efforts on the client’s behalf. People v. Mai supra, 57 Cal. 4th at
24 1009 citing Glasser v. United States (1942) 315 U.S. 60, 69-70; People v. Doolin (2009) 45 Cal.4th
25 390, 417.
26 The circumstances in the Almanza case, supra, clearly apply in this situation as well.
Here, we have no trouble concluding there was a conflict of interest
27
that was real, not theoretical. Any trial counsel in a criminal case
28 who is worried that the prosecutor is scrutinizing his or her
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
actions for possible criminal investigation and/or prosecution
1
has a conflict with the interest of representing the client
2 zealously—he or she does not want to antagonize the prosecutor.
The conflicting interests here are certainly as obvious as those our
3 Supreme Court identified in People v. Friend (2009) 47 Cal.4th 1.
In that case, defense counsel’s office had represented a prosecution
4
witness and so the trial court constrained the defense’s ability to
5 cross-examine that witness. Almanza, supra, 233 Cal. App. 4th at
1002.
6
Evidence of Fletcher’s potential criminal conduct, including his effort to assist in the sale
7
of the Video along with his efforts to bribe witnesses, suborn perjury etc., will no doubt surface
8
in the murder case. This evidence would be admissible to explain any change in a witness’s
9
statement and to evidence consciousness of guilt on the part of the defendant. Once that
10
information comes to light, the fact that law enforcement has previously scrutinized Fletcher’s
11
behavior will no doubt weigh on his mind while representing the defendant in the instant case. It
12
is therefore imperative that this court appoint independent counsel, conduct an independent
13
inquiry on the issue of any conflict of interest, and take whatever additional steps the Court finds
14
necessary to protect the defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights and to ensure the validity of any
15
verdict in the murder case.
16

17

18
Dated: August 8, 2017 Respectfully submitted,
19

20 JACKIE LACEY
21 DISTRICT ATTORNEY

22 Stefan Digitally signed by: Stefan C. Mrakich


DN: CN = Stefan C. Mrakich C = US
O = District Attorney's Office OU =
C. Public Intergrity Division

By:
Date: 2017.08.09 15:03:08 -07'00'
Mrakich
23
STEFAN C. MRAKICH
24 Deputy District Attorney
25

26

27

28
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PEOPLE’S PETTION FOR COURT INQUIRY/CONFLICT OF INTEREST