Eric Holder, the Los Angeles man accused in the shooting death of Grammy-nominated rapper Nipsey Hussle, was to appear in court Friday for the first time since he pleaded not guilty in April – but without his high-profile lawyer by his side.
Holder, 29, had been represented at his plea hearing last month by former Los Angeles prosecutor Christopher Darden, who helped prosecute (unsuccessfully) O.J. Simpson at his 1994-95 murder trial, and later became a high-profile defense attorney.
But on Friday, Darden filed a motion to withdraw from the case, citing death threats. In a Facebook post, Darden attacked unnamed people who threatened him and his family and pointed out America’s centuries-long history of black men being lynched or convicted without a defense attorney.
“I cannot understand why in 2019 some people would deny a black man his 6th Amendment right to counsel of his choice. Or why defending such a man should invite threats not only against me but against my children too,” Darden wrote.
He said he didn’t know whether he would disclose his reasons for withdrawing from the case later.
“I only know that as a lawyer it is my duty to protect the rights of my clients even in the face of threats or angry mobs,” he wrote.
Holder will now be represented by an attorney in the public defender’s office and another preliminary hearing was set for June 12, according to Greg Risling, spokesman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, which otherwise had no comment on the developments in the case.
Darden was a surprise presence at Holder’s plea hearing, with scores of people taking to Twitter to wonder how he could afford Darden, and why Darden agreed to defend someone accused of killing a beloved figure among Angelenos.
When asked outside the courtroom why he took the case, Darden told The Los Angeles Times: “I defend poor people — that’s all I do. And he’s definitely poor.”
Holder is facing a charge of murder and two counts of attempted murder in connection with the attack outside Hussle’s South Los Angeles clothing store on March 31. Holder is also charged with one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.
The criminal complaint includes allegations that he “personally used a firearm and caused great bodily injury and death,” according to a statement from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Holder was arrested April 2 after a nearly 48-hour manhunt. If convicted, Holder faces life in prison. He is being held on $5 million bail, according to county jail records.
Hussle, 33, whose real name was Ermias Asghedom, was a beloved rapper, generous philanthropist, reliable friend, self-taught computer builder and charismatic hustler, according to the many eulogies delivered at an April 11 memorial attended by thousands at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, including celebrities such as Beyonce and Jay Z.
Since his death, the tabloid coverage has focused on disputes over custody of one of his two children, 10-year-old daughter Emani Asghedom, between his siblings and the child’s mother.
SOURCE: Maria Puente, USA TODAY