"I'm not telling all artists never to rap about violence," begins Sean "Puffy" Combs's prosecutor, Matthew Bogdanos, launching into one of the articulate, cutting, but slightly froth-flecked, exhortations to justice he's become known for in Manhattan Supreme Court. A defense lawyer has just argued that using accused gunman Jamal "Shyne" Barrow's violent rap lyrics against him would discourage free expression.
"What I'm telling all artists," Bogdanos continues, "is, 'Don't shoot people! Don't shoot people! Don't take a gun into a club with 300 to 500 people and fire, attempting to murder someone. And if you do" -- he quiets to a near-whisper -- "don't brag about it!' "
Bogdanos, 43, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Reserves and an amateur middleweight boxer who can't remember whether his nose has been broken five or six times, may be the perfect combination of legal scholar and action figure to prosecute Puff Daddy. That sermon, delivered earlier this month, left Barrow's lawyer, Murray Richman, grousing that "I don't need a prancing, tiptoeing prosecutor." Another left Combs's lawyer, Ben Brafman, quipping that his opponent should climb down from the chandelier.
Facing up to fifteen years in prison on gun possession and bribery in connection with the December 1999 Club New York shooting, Combs doesn't seem to share his lawyer's amusement. He's seen a lot of Bogdanos since he grilled him in front of grand jurors last year and -- especially when the prosecutor is waving the Criminal-Procedure Law book above his head shouting "It's the law" -- he probably doesn't like what he sees.
"He's a gentleman warrior," says Eddie Hayes, who represented Combs's bodyguard and co-defendant, Anthony "Wolf" Jones, in the first months of the prosecution. Harvey Slovis, a lawyer who resigned from the Combs defense team when Johnnie Cochran signed on, remembers meeting Bogdanos at the Midtown North precinct when he was demanding the prosecutor let his client be arraigned: "Bogdanos was trying to stall, get lineups together, so I basically said, 'You're fucking with him.' " Slovis recalls being quite impressed as Bogdanos put his hands on his hips, stared him down, and answered, "You don't know me."
"My first impression was: tough son-of-a-bitch."