Suge Knight: The Crimes of a Rap Mogul

As of this writing, Suge Knight should be facing a trial stemming from a hit and run in 2015 in the very near future. Here is an overview of not only that alleged crime, but Knight’s life in entertainment and other crimes he may have been involved in.

We have everything that you’ve ever needed to know about Suge Knight’s legal issues.

A Brief Bio

Suge Knight was born Marion Hugh Knight Jr. on April 19, 1965, in Compton California. “Suge” is actually the short form of an old nickname, “Sugar Bear.” He attended Lynwood High School where he made a name for himself playing football and in track. Knight graduated in 1983.

Football Career

After high school, Knight went on to play football in college, first at El Camino College, and then at the University of Nevada. Like many kids from a bad neighborhood, Knight hoped that playing football would be his ticket to fame and fortune.

Unfortunately, his football career didn’t amount to a huge contract. The closes he got was playing two games with the Los Angeles Rams as a replacement player during the 1987 NFL players’ strike.

Career in the Music Industry and Criminal Activities

After his football playing days came to an end, Knight set his sights on the music industry. First, he was a bodyguard for a number of musicians including singer Bobby Brown. Knight made his way to being the industry proper by starting his own music publishing company.

The first real money that the publishing company brought in was after Knight had a discussion with rapper Vanilla Ice over the publishing rights to “Ice, Ice, Baby.” Knight’s client, Mario Johnson, contended that he co-wrote the song, but did not receive any credit or royalties.

What happened between Knight and Vanilla Ice may only truly be known to those to men, as details of Ice’s version of the story changed in between tellings. Ice, in the past, claimed that Knight caught up to him in a hotel room and demanded that he sign over some of the publishing rights. As part of that exchange, the rapper said that Knight implied he would toss Ice off the balcony unless he signed the paperwork.

Suge Knight, Rap Mogul

Photo: Facebook/marionsugeknight

Depending on the version of the story, this implication was made either by Knight taking Ice out on to the balcony and pointing out how long a drop it was, or had Knight hanging him off the balcony by his feet.

Shortly after this, Knight formed an artist management company. The company’s client roster expanded quickly with the signing of DJ Quik and The D.O.C. Through DJ Quik, Knight met members of N.W.A., an incredibly popular and influential rap group at the time.

When Dr. Dre and The D.O.C. wanted out of their contracts with Ruthless Records, Knight allegedly came to the Ruthless offices with pipes and bats, threatening owners Jerry Heller and Easy E until they released the artists.

Dre, The D.O.C., and Knight ended up forming Death Row Records. As the money from Death Row artists like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and later Tupac, began to roll in, the thuggish and gang-like behavior of Knight and many of his associates continued.

Suge Knight’s Legal Issues

To speak about Suge Knight’s alleged crimes, the matter really has to be separated into three distinct parts. The first part is all of the legal issues we know Knight was involved in.

In October 1987, he was arrested in Las Vegas twice. Once for domestic violence when he assaulted his then-girlfriend, Sharitha Golden. The second arrest was for firing three shots at a man who was trying to steal his car. For the latter charge, Knight received probation.

In 1996, Knight violated that probation and ended up going to prison until August 6, 2001. In 2003, he violated his parole by assaulting a parking attendant, and landed back in prison.

The biggest of these issues came in 2015. On January 29, 2015, Knight was involved in a hit and run near the set of the N.W.A. biography, Straight Outta Compton. He ran over two men, killing one, injuring the other, while speeding off in his truck.

Knight turned himself in to authorities the next day and was charged with murder. Due to multiple delays caused by the hiring and firing of lawyers, health issues, and legal issues involving members of his family (we’ll come back to that), the trial for these particular charges has not yet started.

This trial also postponed another of Knight’s trials for the theft of a paparazzi’s camera, but it was moved until the murder trial was taken care of.

In 2017, Knight was charged with one felony count of making criminal threats against Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray, from an incident that occurred on August 8, 2014.

Financial Legal Troubles

With all of this time in prison, Knight’s empire began to crumble. He ended up filing for bankruptcy and, as part of that, other lawsuits began to crop up. The most notable of these was Knight suing Kanye West.

At a party hosted by West in 2008, Knight was wounded by a gunshot to the leg. In the suit, Knight claimed damages that included mental and physical pain caused by the shooting, loss of income, costs of surgery, and the theft of a 15-carat diamond earring worth approximately $147,000.

Alleged Crimes, Non-Reported Crimes, Connected Crimes, and Urban Legends

Finally, there are the crimes that Suge Knight’s name is always attached to in the press, but may not have actually been committed by him.

For example, Toi-Lin Kelly, Knight’s current fiancée, was recently sentenced to three years in jail for setting up interviews between television producers from BET and Knight. This was in direct violation of a court order that limits Knight’s contact with the outside world.

Thaddeus Culpepper and Matthew Fletcher are two of Knight’s former lawyers who were both indicted for conspiring to influence potential witnesses in Knight’s murder trial. Both lawyers denied any and all wrongdoing.

And then there are the stories that won’t go away. Suge Knight has long been the subject of gossip and rumor when it comes to the murders of hip-hop legends Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.. There is no hard evidence, but there are variations on many stories that put the blame on Knight.

The most prevalent of rumors that goes with the death of Tupac is that his murder was orchestrated by Knight, and that the producer was willing to take a bullet to sell that he had no involvement. Dig deeper and you will find stories of Knight paying off, or even hiring, police officers for the hit on Tupac. Another common story is that Tupac wasn’t the target, Knight was.

In the case of the Notorious B.I.G, the tale that is mostly told is that Knight had him killed as retaliation for the death of Tupac. Again, there is no hard evidence that Knight was involved in either crime.