MIAMI – A former associate of Sean "Diddy" Combs has filed a lawsuit from prison against the hip-hop mogul, claiming Combs owes him more than $19 million for music by the late rapper Notorious B.I.G.
James Sabatino, a former consultant for Combs' Bad Boy Entertainment Inc., said he flew B.I.G. to Miami in 1994 to perform a show and record some music. The rapper, whose real name was Christopher Wallace, recorded about 17 minutes of vocals, and the session was also captured on about 90 minutes of video footage.
It was understood that both belonged to Sabatino because he paid for the rapper's travel expenses and studio time, although a contract was never signed, according to the lawsuit.
Combs' attorney did not immediately comment Saturday night. Sabatino is still in prison, and a listing for his attorney could not be found.
B.I.G. was killed in 1997 in what a still-unsolved homicide. Later that year, Combs agreed to buy the music and video footage from Sabatino for $200,000. Combs gave Sabatino a check for $25,000 and promised the rest of the money in 60 days, according to the lawsuit.
Combs said the reason for the delay was that Los Angeles police had named Sabatino a person of interest in the rapper's death. Sabatino and Notorious B.I.G. were scheduled to meet the night of the killing, but Sabatino never showed up.
Combs worried it could be misconstrued if the public found out his company had paid a person of interest in the killing, the lawsuit said.
Sabatino was later incarcerated on unrelated charges but still tried to get the money from Combs. He was repeatedly told it was coming soon, according to the lawsuit.
The $19 million is being sought for both actual and punitive damages, the lawsuit said.
Sabatino says in the lawsuit that he felt pressured not to talk about the dispute because Combs had been questioned by police about the rapper's death. Combs apparently told police he did not feel Sabatino was involved in the slaying, but Sabatino says he feared Combs would change his story and implicate him even if it was not true.