California Bar Journal
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Former deputy DA disciplined in aftermath of rapper's case
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A former Los Angeles deputy district attorney who was fired for his handling of a 1992 assault case involving rap music mogul Marion “Suge” Knight has been disciplined by the State Bar. LAWRENCE M. LONGO [#43519], 60, stipulated to two counts of failing to notify his employer about significant developments in the case and was given a stayed two-year suspension and placed on two years of probation.

Knight signed Longo’s 18-year-old daughter to a $50,000 recording contract with his label, Death Row Records, and lived in a Malibu Colony home owned by Longo’s family while the deputy D.A. was overseeing Knight’s case. According to the stipulation Longo reached with the bar, he was required to notify the D.A. about both the recording contract and the lease arrangement Knight had with his family.

“By his conduct,” the stipulation says, “[Longo] placed himself in circumstances which created the appearance of impropriety in the mind of the public.” In mitigation, however, the bar found that although Longo exercised poor judgment, he did not act dishonestly. He also had an exemplary 27-year career as a prosecutor. Longo was fired for conflict of interest and other departmental policy violations, but a California Justice Department investigation requested by the district attorney found insufficient grounds for criminal charges against him. Investigators said he never sought any special treatment for Knight.

Knight pleaded no contest in February 1995 to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, admitting that he used a gun during an attack against two aspiring rappers. He was given a nine-year suspended sentence but eventually went to prison after violating his probation.

After the plea, Longo maintained the files in Knight’s case and continued to receive information about the record producer. In the summer of 1995, Longo’s son, Frank, provided a demo tape done by his sister, Gina, to David Kenner, who was both Knight’s attorney and general counsel for Death Row Records. Gina Longo told her father about the contract offer in December 1995 and received a $25,000 advance from the record company the following month.

In August and September of 1996, Longo made court appearances in connection with probation revocation and drug testing proceedings for Knight. He did not disclose his daughter’s contract or the fact that he had gone to a dinner party attended by Knight and Kenner where the contract was signed.

In March of 1996, Longo entered into a 12-month lease agreement with Kenner, leasing a family  property for $19,000 a month, plus a $22,800 commission to be paid to Frank Longo. During the ensuing months, Death Row Records directly paid Lawrence Longo $127,000 to lease the Malibu Colony property, the sole asset of a trust for which Lawrence Longo and his wife were trustees.

Although it was not his exclusive residence, Knight occupied the property frequently from June through September.

While Longo continued to represent the district attorney in overseeing Knight’s case, he did not disclose his business relationship with Knight.

When Longo appealed his firing to the Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission, he argued that his financial dealings with Knight posed no conflict of interest because they came well after Knight entered his plea in the assault matter. The commission upheld the firing in 1998.

Longo also was ordered by the bar to take the professional responsibility exam within a year and to pay costs of about $8,700.