Judge dumps kidnapping case with alleged ties to Shaquille O’Neal
A judge on Tuesday formally dismissed charges against gang members accused of kidnapping a music producer who claimed to have a sex tape of NBA star Shaquille O’Neal.
L.A. Superior Court Judge M.L. Villar de Longoria took the action after a prosecutor said his office didn't want to proceed with the trial, citing problems with the credibility of the alleged victim. The defense immediate asked for a dismissal.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Hoon Chun said there was “cause for concern” about Robert Ross’ testimony in court as well as conduct outside of court that led to the prosecution’s decision. He declined to give details.
“We do not have the necessary confidence in the credibility of Mr. Ross to proceed in this case,” Chun said, which was met with loud cheers from the audience and a chorus of “motion to dismiss” from seven defense attorneys.
The prosecution’s unusual move marked a surprise twist in the case, which thrust into the spotlight O’Neal’s friendship with Ross, a former gang member, just as the former Laker announced his retirement after 19 years in the NBA. Ross has also filed a civil lawsuit against O’Neal and his business partner Mark Stevens, alleging the two were behind the attack.
Seven Main Street Crips members were charged earlier this year with kidnapping, assault and robbery in the Feb. 10, 2008, incident. Ross alleged that on that night, armed gang members had taken him from West Hollywood to a home in the gang's neighborhood and robbed and beat him while demanding a videotape and mentioning O’Neal.
In preliminary hearing testimony that lasted more than two days, Ross said he had been a friend of O’Neal’s but had a falling-out over a record deal dispute, then told O’Neal he had a sex tape of the star to get him to pay the money he thought he was owed.
Ross said in his testimony that he never actually had the tape. He said the kidnapping occurred two weeks later.
From the onset of the hearings, defense attorneys had questioned the credibility of Ross, a felon with a lengthy record who was arrested on federal drug and firearm possession charges while the investigation into his purported kidnapping was underway.
Other questions emerged about Ross’ testimony. The man testified that he had never worked as an informant for law enforcement; The Times later reported that he had been a registered informant for the Los Angeles Police Department, which in 2010 classified him as an “undesirable informant.” An LAPD detective at the time wrote that Ross appeared to be attempting to extort money from O’Neal.
Defense attorneys also brought up an Internet message Ross sent to O’Neal’s ex-wife, Shaunie O’Neal, while the hearings were going on, telling her she needed to “pay up.”
-- Victoria Kim
Photo: Shaquille O'Neal. Credit: Associated Press