Rapper's trial turns in his favor

Philadelphia Daily News (PA)

Did the eyewitness against rapper Beanie Sigel finally come clean, or simply cave in to fear?

Defense attorney Fortunato “Fred” Perri yesterday spun the testimony to favor Sigel, whose real name is Dwight Grant. To Perri, David Aimes' statements led the case to, “unravel right before your eyes.””Quite frankly, yesterday, after hours of testifying one way in this courtroom, testifying that he saw Dwight Grant shoot that night – he did it before lunch, after lunch – finally, he couldn't do it anymore,” Perri said during closing arguments in the three-day trial.

“The shame of it is, he didn't come clean out of a sense of conscience, good feeling. It's all about money. Nobody's taking care of him anymore.”

Perri said eyewitness David Aimes and shooting victim Terrence Speller pinned the assault on Sigel in order to land a “payday.” Speller has filed a civil suit against Sigel for the July 2003 shooting.

Prosecutor Lynn Nichols saw it a different way.

“Obviously when David was on the stand testifying yesterday, you saw him: head down, head in his hand. He didn't want to look up. He was in distress,” Nichols told jurors.

The distress, she said, was caused by fear for his life and his aversion to becoming a snitch.

“That fear . . . is what you saw come out yesterday,” she said. “That fear is real.”

The jury began sorting it all out yesterday afternoon during deliberations in Sigel's attempted murder retrial. The last trial, held in April 2004, was declared a mistrial when jurors failed to reach a verdict.

Speller said Sigel whipped out a semi-automatic and fired at him five or six times because he had a disagreement with the daughter of Sigel's girlfriend. Speller was shot twice and recovered.

This time around, trial testimony was shorter and more to the point. The celebrity frenzy simmered down. Even the guest list shrank: There were no visits from the rapper Jay-Z or his girlfriend Beyonce Knowles.

Deliberations are expected to continue Monday. *

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