Director Gary Gray, Fearful for Life, Refuses to Testify Against Suge Knight
Infamous businessman and music producer Marion “Suge” Knight is again making headlines as he stands accused of threatening filmmaker F. Gary Gray while the latter was shooting Straight Outta Compton, the Oscar-nominated feature depicting the rise of the rap collective N.W.A.
In February, “Grand jurors indicted Knight on a charge of threatening Gray with death or great bodily injury, one of several turns in a now years-long legal saga for Knight,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
“I will see u in person … u have kids just like me so let’s play hardball,” Knight sent Gray in a text message. He “ended the message with a pair of expletives and a racial slur, according to court records.”
Straight Outta Compton does not depict Knight in the best of lights and includes a scene in which his character (portrayed by R. Marcos Taylor) stands by and watches two men beat a man he had threatened. The film angered Knight, who did not like his portrayal and has aimed his subsequent anger at the director as well as other figures related to the film. These include rapper-producer Dr. Dre, a.k.a. Andre Young, whom Knight says put a hit on him; and rapper-actor Ice Cube, a.k.a. O’Shea Jackson, whose son plays Jackson in the film. In 1992 Dre released the legendary album “The Chronic” on the record label co-founded and headed by Knight, after leaving the N.W.A., of which he was a member with Ice Cube.
Knight is currently also on trial for murder and attempted murder in a hit-and-run incident that resulted in the death of Terry Carter, 55. The event allegedly followed a dispute on the set of Straight Outta Compton. Knight has a long history of arrests and expensive legal battles, leading to several charges of assault, drug-possession, and robbery. Knight and his record label filed for bankruptcy in 2006.
A grand jury hearing recently took place where Gray was called to testify regarding the multiple threats to life he received from Knight, including the above message but also subsequent phone calls.
Gray claims to remember nothing. To support her case against Knight, the Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Barnes told jurors he is testifying to not recalling their interactions for fear of his life. “He’s so afraid he came in here and lied under oath,” she said. “He’s perjuring himself because he’s that afraid.”
While a successful and groundbreaking hip-hop entrepreneur who famously signed Tupac Shakur to his now-legendary label Death Row Records, Knight is also well known for his violent and menacing behavior.
In the 1990s it was widely reported and believed, though without enough evidence, that Knight was partially responsible for the untimely and tragic murders of Tupac and, only six months later, the Notorious B.I.G., two of the most celebrated and talented voices in popular music. Since then, many accusations of violent actions and intentions have been leveled at the former entertainment executive, including ordering the death of rapper Eminem, who was then the protégé of Dr. Dre.
Los Angeles Police Detective Jason Cook testified that Gray “seemed extremely agitated as well as extremely frightened” when police arrived on set. “Gray told detectives Knight had threatened his family and members of the film crew and that he was angry over his portrayal, according to Cook’s testimony.”
Yet Gray testified the following: “I can’t say I remember being threatened by him specifically.”
According to the lead investigator in Knight’s homicide case, L.A.’s County Sheriff’s Sergeant Richard Biddle, Gray attempted to evade any involvement in the legal proceedings. He also claimed Gray asked to be escorted in and out of the courthouse to protect him from “Knight’s gang members.”
Barnes reiterated to the jury that Gray was refusing to testify to the truth not for lack of intelligence or to protect himself from legal or professional trouble, but rather because Suge Knight had instilled in him a high degree of fear, as he has done to others in the past. “You remember a lot,” she said to Gray. “But you seem to have a black hole memory when it comes to this individual incident.”
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