By Daina Beth Solomon
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A key witness in the hit-and-run murder case against Marion "Suge" Knight told a Los Angeles judge on Monday he was reluctant to testify against the one-time rap music mogul, declining even to positively identify him in open court.
Cle "Boan" Sloan, one of two men Knight is accused of deliberately running over in his pickup truck at a hamburger stand in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton, took the witness stand at a preliminary hearing in the case.
Prosecutors say it was with Sloan whom Knight traded punches through the window of his vehicle before putting the truck into reverse, knocking Sloan and another man, Terry Carter, to the ground, and then pulling forward to run over both men.
Carter, 55, later died. Sloan, 51, suffered a badly mangled left foot and head injuries.
Knight, 49, is charged with murder, attempted murder and two counts of felony hit-and-run in the Jan. 29 fracas, which followed an argument on the set of a commercial for the film "Straight Outta Compton."
On the witness stand at the start of the hearing, Sloan, who described himself as a "non-active gang member," balked at giving testimony that would incriminate the defendant.
"I will not be used to send Suge Knight to prison," he said.
Asked by Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Barnes if he could identify Knight as she pointed to him in the courtroom, Sloan said, "That doesn't look like Mr. Knight."
Wearing an orange jail uniform and handcuffs for Monday's proceeding, Knight appeared slightly thinner since his last court hearing, with a touch of gray in his beard.
If found guilty of murder, the co-founder of the influential hip-hop label Death Row Records would face a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life in prison under California's three-strikes rule. He is being held on $25 million bail.
Prosecutors also have alleged Knight was part of an extortion scheme in which new rappers arriving in Los Angeles and Las Vegas were required to pay him a "tax."
Knight has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His attorney has said Knight accidentally ran into the two men as he tried to speed away from the scene of what he thought was an ambush attempt.
(Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Lisa lambert)