Notorious B.I.G. lawsuit against LAPD dismissed
Putting a temporary end to a tortuous eight-year legal battle, a federal judge has dismissed a wrongful-death suit filed by the family of rapper Notorious B.I.G. against the city of Los Angeles charging that officials covered up police involvement in the rapper's murder.
The rapper Christopher Wallace, also known as Biggie Smalls, was gunned down outside the Petersen Automotive Museum on March 9, 1997, while leaving a music industry party. The criminal investigation surrounding Wallace’s murder remains open.
The lawsuit was dismissed April 5 by U.S. District Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen after the cadre of lawyers on either side of the case said they had reached an agreement allowing for the lawsuit to be filed at a later date without being subject to statutes of limitation.
The suit was dismissed “without prejudice,” meaning the case can be filed again.
Bradley Gage, an attorney for Wallace’s family, said the criminal investigation appeared to be “gathering speed and steam” and that attorneys were putting the civil lawsuit on hold to prevent conflicting outcomes between the civil and criminal case.
“We run the risk of pursing a case against some people, and later finding out we went after the wrong people,” he said, adding that evidence presented in a potential criminal trial could be used in the civil case. “There is benefit to both sides on waiting on this case. Murder has no statute of limitations, so the criminal issues linger on.” Wallace’s family, including his mother, first sued the city in 2002. The case went to trial in 2005, but ended in a mistrial after the family’s attorney said the Los Angeles Police Department had withheld evidence.
Judge Florence-Marie Cooper, who oversaw the trial and has since died, ordered the city to pay $1.1 million in sanctions. The civil lawsuit estimated the financial losses from the rapper’s death could be as much as $500 million. The family alleged that former LAPD officers Raphael Perez and Nino Durden were involved in Wallace’s slaying, a claim the city denies.
Photo: Biggie Smalls. Credit: Los Angeles Times