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Busta Rhymes Faces 2 Assault Charges in New York

Busta Rhymes will face trial on two assault charges after a judge withdrew a plea offer Monday that would have let the rapper remain free.

Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Tanya Kennedy withdrew the offer that included probation, community service and a series of lectures to troubled youth. She cited his recent arrest for driving with a suspended license as the reason.

"The court's offer is off the table," Kennedy told Rhymes.

His attorneys declined to comment as they left court.

Rhymes' attorney, Robert Kalina, has said previously that Rhymes had been prepared to accept the deal.

After the judge withdrew her plea offer, the 34-year-old rapper rejected a follow-up offer by the prosecution of one year in jail for each of two counts of assault — to run concurrently — and a $500 fine for the suspended license charge, and will go to trial instead.

Kennedy tentatively set the trial to begin May 8.

In February, Rhymes rejected a prosecutor's offer of six months in jail on the two assault charges, but said he would consider the judge's deal that would have allowed him to plead guilty to misdemeanor assault and remain free.

Rhymes, whose real name is Trevor Smith, is accused in a complaint with beating Edward Hatchett, 39, his former driver, "with a closed fist about the head and neck" and kicking him in the ribs and torso during a dispute over back pay. The attack on Dec. 26 outside Rhymes' lower Manhattan office left Hatchett with cuts, bruises and substantial pain, according to the complaint.

In the other case, Rhymes is charged with assaulting a fan, allegedly for spitting on the rapper's car, after an Aug. 12 performance at the AmsterJam Music Festival on Randalls Island.

In February, the rap star was jailed briefly after police stopped his car for running a red light and discovered he was driving with a suspended license.

Police also have tried to question Rhymes as a potential witness in the February 2006 shooting death of his bodyguard, Israel Ramirez. Police say Rhymes so far has refused to cooperate with their investigation.

Rhymes, known for wild outfits and an antic performance style, has hits that include, "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See," "Dangerous" and "Touch It." He also has appeared in movies, including "Shaft" and "Finding Forrester."