Rapper's lawyer attacks in his closing argument

Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)

Lawyers for rapper Beanie Sigel, charged with attempted murder in a West Philadelphia shooting last year, rested their case yesterday without calling a single witness.

Instead, defense attorney Fortunato Perri Jr. sought to demolish the prosecution's case in a dramatic, 20-minute closing argument to the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury.Prosecutors argued that Sigel, 30, whose real name is Dwight Grant, leaped from his Cadillac Escalade near the corner of 52d Street and Larchwood Avenue and gunned down Terrance Speller early on July 1, leaving him critically wounded.

Speller, 27, first told police he had been shot and robbed by unknown assailants. He later said that Sigel shot him following a convoluted dispute with some women outside the Pony Tail Bar, a 52d Street go-go joint.

David Aimes, 21, an acquaintance of Speller's and the only eyewitness to testify, also first told police that unknown robbers were responsible for the attack. Aimes then changed his story and implicated Sigel, a well-known hip-hop artist from South Philadelphia.

In his closing argument, Perri picked apart the testimony of Aimes and Speller, characterizing it as replete with contradictions, inconsistencies and falsehoods.

“When you start telling lies, one lie leads to another,” Perri said. “Because of all the lies, their story doesn't make any sense. . . . The scary part is how easy it is that these guys lie.”

Deborah Robinson, assistant district attorney, acknowledged that Speller and Aimes had been drinking and smoking marijuana that night. She acknowledged that a warrant had been out for Aimes' arrest on probation violations. She also acknowledged inconsistencies in their accounts.

But Speller and Aimes, she said, “are credible and believable” because of those shortcomings.

“They are real,” she said.

The robbery story, Robinson said, was concocted because they were “afraid for themselves and for their families.”

Perri argued that Aimes and Speller had some other unknown motive in seeking “to destroy people who try to better themselves,” a reference to Sigel.

The case is to go to the jury today.

Contact staff writer Stephan Salisbury at 215-854-5594 or ssalisbury@phillynews.com.

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