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Friday, 14 January, 2000, 11:52 GMT
'Puffy' hires OJ's lawyer
Puff Daddy says he's putting his faith in God
US rap star Puff Daddy has hired a top legal team including OJ Simpson's ex-lawyer in an attempt to avoid a possible 15-year jail sentence.

Flashback: OJ Simpson celebrates his acquittal with Johnnie Cochran
Johnnie Cochran, who successfully defended OJ Simpson against murder charges in 1995, and Benjamin Brafman - another star lawyer - have joined the 30-year-old star's defence.

On Thursday, Puff Daddy's prosecutors decided to take the case, stemming from a shootout at a New York nightclub last month, to court.

A Manhattan grand jury handed down an indictment charging the singer and producer with criminal possession of a weapon in the second and third degree, after police found two loaded 9 mm guns allegedly in his possession following the shooting on 27 December in which three people were injured.

Puff Daddy - whose real name is Sean Combs -denies the charges and has said he does not even own a gun.

Puff Daddy with his girlfriend Jennifer Lopez
Combs and his girlfriend, actress and singer Jennifer Lopez, were arrested after they allegedly fled the scene of the shooting, the Times Square nightspot, Club New York, in a vehicle that, according to police, went through 11 red lights before it was stopped.

"The decision to indict me is wrong," Combs said in a statement. "I'm innocent and we will prove it. I am putting my faith in God and I know my name will be cleared."

Combs, who earned an estimated $53m (33m) through his rap empire in 1998, has been free on $10,000 (6,000) bail since his arrest. He is due back in court on 14 February.

Star support

Lopez, who testified before the grand jury and has not been charged, released a statement saying she had never seen Combs with a weapon on the night of his arrest.

"I am surprised and saddened to learn of the indictment against Sean Combs," she said. "I support him wholeheartedly throughout this difficult time."

Puff Daddy's lawyer Johnnie Cochran added: "We ask the public, Sean's millions of fans and those with whom he is involved in various business ventures to withhold judgement until the case is over.

"Mr Combs, like any other citizen accused of a crime, is presumed to be innocent. Mr Combs looks forward to his day in court where he can respond to these charges and demonstrate that he is not guilty of these crimes, once and for all."

See also:

05 Jan 00 | Entertainment
Puff Daddy proclaims his innocence
07 Dec 99 | Entertainment
Lopez: I'm no billion dollar babe
27 Dec 99 | Americas
Singer Lopez held by police
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