Rapper's murder charge reduced

2005-08-17 12:26
Philadelphia - Rapper Cassidy can face a trial on a third-degree murder charge, but not first-degree murder, for allegedly taking part in an ambush that left one person dead, a judge ruled on Tuesday.

Authorities allege that Cassidy, whose real name is Barry Reese, was one of several men who riddled a van with gunfire as it headed down a side street behind the rapper's home in Philadelphia on April 15. The van was fired upon at least 30 times by four different guns, including assault rifles, authorities said.

The victim had been in an earlier altercation with Cassidy and had gone to his home to make peace, a witness previously testified. Killed in the shooting was Desmond Hawkins, 22, authorities said.

Not enough evidence for first-degree murder

Judge Marsha Neifield concluded that prosecutors only had enough evidence to try Cassidy, 22, on charges including third-degree murder, attempted murder and weapons offences. Testimony in the case was heard last month but the judge was waiting for ballistics analysis to be completed.

Prosecutor Deborah Watson-Stokes said she would appeal the charge reduction, which allows Cassidy to request to be released on bail. Defendants charged with first-degree murder typically are not granted bail.

Neifield set bail at $2.5m but ordered Cassidy to remain behind bars pending the appeal. He has been held without bail since he turned himself in to authorities on June 17.

Cassidy's lawyer, Fortunato Perri jun, refused to comment after the hearing. He has said his client is innocent of the charges.

The rapper's new CD, I'm a Hustla, was released on June 28. His debut CD, Split Personality, peaked at No 2 on the Billboard album chart and spawned the top 10 single Hotel featuring R Kelly.

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