Witnesses drag feet at trial of Nipsey Hussle shooter

By ANDREW DALTON
AP Entertainment Editor

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge on Thursday issued an arrest warrant for an eyewitness to the shooting death of rapper Nipsey Hussle for failing to testify at the trial of the man charged with the murder, and in his absence, a Police detective testified about the reluctance of witnesses which marked the case.

Evan “Rimpau” MacKenzie, a close friend of Hussle who was a pallbearer at his funeral and stood next to him when he was shot, repeatedly ignored subpoenas ordering him to appear and testify for the charge, which led to Judge H. Clay Jacke II issuing the arrest warrant with $500,000 bond.

“Did Mr. Mackenzie express any reluctance to testify? Aaron Jansen, attorney for defendant Eric Holder, asked LAPD Det. Cedric Washington, who responded that MacKenzie had said the same thing during telephone conversations.

The taboo against “snitching” permeated every part of the trial of Holder, who is charged with first-degree murder in Hussle’s 2019 death and attempted murder because two bystanders were struck by gunfire.

It was a conversation between Holder and Hussle on the subject – in which Hussle told Holder that there were rumors of “paperwork” suggesting he had spoken to authorities – that prosecutors consider Holder’s motive for return a few minutes later to take down Hussle.

The shooting took place in a predominantly black neighborhood in South Los Angeles where the men and most of the witnesses grew up, and where distrust of the police and the courts runs deep. Even Hussle’s friends and fans, as well as those affected by Holder’s shots, were hesitant to speak in the public room.

“I don’t know anything, I don’t see anything,” Kerry Lathan, who was injured in the shooting, said on the stand last week, refusing to identify himself in surveillance video shown to jurors. He then declined to identify Holder as the shooter.

“You don’t want to testify to what happened? Assistant District Attorney John McKinney asked him.

“That’s right,” Lathan replied.

On Thursday, Jansen sought to pin hesitation over Holder and Hussle’s ties to the Rollin ’60s street gang.

“Typically in gang cases, is there a reluctance to testify?” Jansen asked.

“I wouldn’t limit this to gang cases,” Washington replied.

“I ask about gang stuff,” Jansen said.

“I believe it’s common, yes,” Washington said.

Jansen continued, “Several witnesses in this case said they didn’t want to come to court and they thought their families would be in danger, right?”

Washington has acknowledged that there are.

In follow-up questions from prosecutors, Washington downplayed the gang aspect.

“I have investigated many cases that fall outside the scope of gang cases. I have found that a majority of people are reluctant to come to court or speak to law enforcement,” Washington said. “Everyone seems to think that by coming to court they are going to be retaliated against.”

“Were there any threats against a witness in this case who accused them of being a snitch?” McKinney asked. “Are you aware of any harm suffered by anyone in this case for witnessing or speaking to the police?”

Washington said no to both questions, acknowledging that there was a threat made last week by an anonymous caller to Bryannita Nicholson, who testified for the prosecution that she acted as Holder’s unwitting driver.

Nicholson, who was granted immunity in exchange for her testimony, had her identity kept secret when she testified before a grand jury in 2019.

Last week, after her identity was revealed but before she spoke, she received the phone call.

“A male voice was heard saying something like ‘you got Nipsey Hussle killed,'” Washington said. “Bryannita hung up.”

McKinney stressed that the threat was not about her testimony, but about her role in Hussle’s death.

Nicholson was given extra security and was escorted through a special entrance for her two days of testimony this week, during which she appeared to speak freely and confidently, showing no reluctance.

Others have been much more hesitant and discreet on the stand, although several eyewitnesses identified Holder as the shooter, making it unlikely that the absence and silence of other witnesses would do much harm to a powerful man. indictment file.

The defense acknowledged that Holder shot Hussle, but said there was no premeditation and he was not guilty of first-degree murder.

Prosecutors have only one witness left before they close their case, and the jury could have him soon.

“Unless Rimpau is arrested,” McKinney said after court.

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Follow AP Entertainment writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton