NEW YORK – Rap star Lil' Kim (search) testified at her federal perjury trial on Thursday, telling jurors she was bullied by prosecutors when she allegedly lied to a grand jury about a 2001 shootout.
"I was a victim (of the shooting)," the Grammy-winning artist testified. "I couldn't believe I was being badgered the way I was."
Wearing a lacy peach dress beneath a white blazer, the 4-foot-11 Lil' Kim frequently turned in the direction of jurors, flashed broad smiles and dropped names of famous artists she's worked with. She was admonished by the judge after prosecutors complained they heard her say hello to one juror from the witness box during a lunch break.
Lil' Kim, 29, who has pleaded not guilty to perjury and conspiracy charges, was to be cross-examined later on Thursday.
Authorities say the gunfire erupted when Lil' Kim's entourage crossed paths with that of rival hip-hop group Capone-N-Noreaga (search) on Feb. 25, 2001, outside rap radio station WQHT, or HOT 97, where they were both making appearances. One man was injured as more than two dozen rounds were fired.
After witnessing the shooting, Lil' Kim allegedly lied to protect two of the shooters — her manager, Damion Butler, and a close friend, Suif Jackson — who since have pleaded guilty to gun charges.
In grand jury testimony in 2003, Lil' Kim claimed Butler wasn't there, and that she couldn't recognize a photo of Jackson — a position she stood by on Thursday while being questioned by her lawyer, Mel Sachs.
"I don't remember seeing Damion Butler that day," she said.
Lil' Kim, whose real name is Kimberly Jones, testified the shooting began without warning, and that she was whisked away in a limousine before she could grasp what happened.
"I was stunned," she said. "I was in shock."
The jury has heard Antoine "Banger" Spain and James "Lil' Cease" Lloyd — Brooklyn rappers who once teamed with Lil' Kim in a group called Junior M.A.F.I.A. — testify that they saw Butler and Jackson at the radio station with her.
Lil' Kim said that sometime after the shooting, she had a falling out with Butler, Spain and Lloyd because they were freeloading at her New Jersey town house. She decided to cut off all contact with Butler — the basis of a defense argument that she had no incentive to lie for him.
"I was just fed up," she said. "They were taking advantage of me."
The rapper also testified at length about her modest background and mercurial career she said began with an impromptu audition with slain rapper Notorious B.I.G. (search) on the street in their Brooklyn neighborhood. She described traveling the world to perform and promote her career.
"Japan is one of my favorite places to go because all of the clothes fit me," the tiny witness quipped.
One female juror burst out laughing.