Whatever happened, Knight fled the scene and surrendered to police early Friday. He seemed jaunty at the time—laughing for cameras and leaving his trademark cigar on a tree, saying he'd collect it when he got out. But things got bleaker in between. A judge first set his bail at $2 million, then revoked that, deeming Knight a flight risk. During his arraignment Tuesday, Knight had an apparent panic attack and was taken to the hospital for chest pains.
It's easy to see why Knight would be rattled. Conviction on any of the counts would constitute a third strike under California's three-strikes law, meaning he could go to prison for life. In 1997, he was sentenced to nine years in prison for violating parole on a previous assault case. He got out in 2001, but was sent back two years later when he hit a parking-lot attendant. That's just part of an impressive rap sheet. Knight was also, famously, injured in 1996 when someone opened fire on the BMW he was driving, killing Tupac Shakur. (He's also been linked, though never by authorities, to the death of Notorious B.I.G. a year later.)
The upshot is that Knight has two strikes against him already.
But Knight was also arrested last fall for robbery in Los Angeles. During an altercation between paparazzi, Knight and comedian Katt Williams, he allegedly grabbed a camera. Prosecutors charged him with robbery in that case, and he was out on bail when the incident with the truck happened. If district attorneys can get a single conviction—for the robbery, for murder, for attempted murder, or for the hit-and-run—Knight is likely to end his life in jail.
"They’ve got him in two separate courthouses on multiple third strikes," says Michael Kraut, a veteran L.A. criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor.
Could Knight still get off? Sure—but it won't be easy. First, he could be acquitted in the paparazzi case, or prosecutors could lower it to a lesser charge, say grand theft person. As Kraut notes, the facts don't show a typical robbery, and the judge seemed sympathetic in an earlier hearing.
Then Knight would need to beat the charges from the January 29 incident. A jury would have to conclude that Knight genuinely feared for his life, and that a reasonable person would have feared for his life in the same situation. That would make the use of a deadly weapon, in this case a truck, justifiable. Or, the jury could conclude that Knight genuinely feared for his life, but that a reasonable person in the same situation would not have. That could result in a manslaughter conviction instead. But if the jury decides that Knight didn't feel fear and that a reasonable person wouldn't have felt fear, he'd be convicted.
"In a perfect world for Suge Knight, he wouldn't know these people," Kraut says: It would make it more credible that he was reasonably afraid. But Knight knew Carter, and as Kraut noted, most reports seem to cast Carter in a positive light.