LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Chris Darden -- a former prosecutor best known for his work in the O.J. Simpson murder trial -- has withdrawn as the defense attorney for the man charged with killing rapper Nipsey Hussle and injuring two other men in South Los Angeles, a judge said today.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Teresa Sullivan noted that she granted Darden's request to withdraw from the case and appointed the Los Angeles County Public Defender's Office to represent Eric Ronald Holder Jr., 29.
Darden -- who left the downtown Los Angeles courtroom before the case was called -- posted on Facebook shortly before the hearing that he was on his way to withdraw from the case.
“As for my reasons for withdrawing I don't know whether I will disclose them later or not,” Darden wrote in a lengthy Facebook post. “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 ... 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 ... Just as they were in 1995 -- Cowards never change. These days these cowards don't send letters instead they sit anonymously behind keyboards threatening a man's mother and children. And some folks think that's funny. It isn't and I won't ever forget it.”
Holder -- represented at his April 4 arraignment by Darden -- is charged with one count each of murder and possession of a firearm by a felon, along with two counts of attempted murder.
The charges, to which Holder pleaded not guilty, include an allegation that he personally and intentionally discharged a handgun which caused great bodily injury and death to the rapper on March 31.
Holder remains jailed in lieu of $5 million bail while awaiting his next court appearance June 12, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to require him to stand trial.
Holder, an aspiring rapper, could face a potential life prison sentence if convicted as charged, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
He is accused of fatally shooting the 33-year-old Hussle -- whose real name is Ermias Joseph Asghedom -- at about 3:20 p.m. March 31 in front of The Marathon Clothing store the singer owned in the 3400 block of West Slauson Avenue in Hyde Park. Two other men also were wounded in the attack, though only one of them was hospitalized.
Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore said Holder got into a personal dispute with Hussle outside the store, then left and returned with a handgun.
Hussle was shot in the head and body and died at a hospital, according to police and the coroner's office.
The police chief declined to discuss the nature of the disagreement between Holder and Hussle but stressed the shooting appeared to be a result of that dispute, not any type of gang rivalry or feud.
“We believe this to be a dispute between Mr. Hussle and Mr. Holder,” Moore said. “I'm not going to go into the conversations, but it appears to be a personal matter between the two of them.”
Holder was arrested by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies about 1 p.m. April 2 in the 9000 block of Artesia Boulevard in Bellflower after a witness called authorities to report seeing a person believed to be Holder.
Hussle's longtime girlfriend, actress Lauren London, posted a message on Instagram along with a series of photos.
“I am completely lost,” she wrote in the poem-formatted message. “I've lost my best friend/My sanctuary/My protector/My soul.../I'm lost without you/We are lost without you babe/I have no words.”
London, known for her work on “ATL” and “Entourage,” had been with Hussle for about five years, and the couple had a 2-year-old son, Kross.
Holder has a criminal record that includes a 2009 arrest and charge of domestic battery against the mother of his child, The Blast reported. He pleaded down the battery charge by agreeing to complete an anger management treatment program and stay 100 yards away from the woman, according to the report.
He was also arrested in 2012 and charged with carrying a loaded gun. He made a deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to six months in Los Angeles County jail. According to court records, Holder was ordered not to “own, use or possess any dangerous or deadly weapons, including firearms, knives or other concealable weapons,” The Blast reported.
Hussle transformed himself from a South Los Angeles gang member to a rap musician and channeled his success into efforts to help others stay out of gangs. He bought shoes for students, re-paved basketball courts and provided jobs and shelter for the homeless.
Hussle helped renovate a Mid-City roller rink and redeveloped the strip mall that housed his clothing shop, where he was fatally wounded.
Photo: Getty Images