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  • Notorious B.I.G. suit ends in mistrial; family expected to refile

    LOS ANGELES -- A federal judge on Wednesday declared a mistrial in the Notorious B.I.G. wrongful-death case, setting the stage for the rap star's family to file a new suit seeking to link his unsolved 1997 killing to a Los Angeles Police Department corruption scandal.

    U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper's ruling came after she expressed concern at a hearing Tuesday that the LAPD had deliberately withheld evidence. Her clerk and attorneys on both sides confirmed the ruling; a written order was to be issued Thursday.

    There were only three days of testimony in the trial, which began June 21 but was interrupted when an anonymous tip led to the discovery of LAPD documents that hadn't been turned over to family attorneys.

    Notorious B.I.G., born Christopher Wallace, was 24 when he was gunned down March 9, 1997, while leaving a party at a Los Angeles museum. The New York rapper also known as Biggie Smalls was one of the most influential hip-hop artists of the 1990s. His albums "Ready to Die" and the posthumously released "Life After Death" are regularly listed among the best in the genre.

    His family's suit against the city and the LAPD claimed corrupt LAPD officer David Mack, now serving a 14-year sentence for bank robbery, arranged to have Wallace killed at the behest of Death Row Records founder Marion "Suge" Knight, and that LAPD officials covered up Mack's involvement.

    The city had previously asked the judge to continue with the trial, arguing that any new documents largely revolved around hearsay.

    Assistant City Atty. Don Vincent said Wednesday he wasn't sure what to make of the ruling.

    Family attorney Perry Sanders Jr. said the case would now delve into a corruption scandal in the LAPD's Rampart division dating to the 1990s.

    Mack's one-time partner, former LAPD officer Rafael Perez, was a central figure in the scandal, which involved misconduct or brutality by corrupt officers in an anti-gang unit.

    More than 100 criminal convictions possibly tainted by police misconduct were reversed. Perez alleged wrongdoing by others after he was found to have stolen cocaine from an evidence room.

    Perez was the focus of most of the recently discovered documents, which had been in an LAPD detective's desk drawer until late last month. The detective said he forgot about them, a claim the judge called "absolutely incredible."

    Mack became a possible suspect after his first visitor in jail was a college roommate. Detectives had received a tip that a man with a name similar to the roommate's was the shooter, a retired detective testified.

    Mack, Perez, Knight and the roommate have never been arrested or charged in connection with the slaying.

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