LAS VEGAS (AP) - A shocking scene of carnage on the Las Vegas Strip will be replayed in a courtroom this week in the death-penalty trial of a self-styled pimp accused of killing three people in a shooting and a fireball crash that tourists compared with a scene from a Hollywood action movie.
Jury selection begins Monday for the trial of Ammar Asim Faruq Harris, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, attempted murder and felony discharging a firearm.
Prosecutors plan to show dashboard video from a taxi trailing a tire-squealing car chase that unfolded beneath the neon glare of Las Vegas Boulevard early Feb. 21, 2013. They also are expected to show views from other cameras of a crash and fireball erupting at the crossroads in front of Caesars Palace, the Bellagio, Flamingo and Bally’s-Paris Las Vegas resorts.
Harris, now 29 and a Nevada state prisoner, is accused of firing a handgun from a Range Rover SUV into a Maserati, mortally wounding an aspiring rapper behind the wheel. Witnesses say the sports car accelerated through a red light and slammed into a taxi, which burst into flames while the Range Rover disappeared into the night.
The Maserati driver, Kenneth Wayne Cherry Jr., 27, died at a hospital. The cab driver and a tourist from Washington state died in the flaming taxi. Freddie Walters, a passenger in the Maserati, was wounded in the arm but survived. Five other people were injured in several other vehicles involved in pinball-effect crashes.
“I don’t have a violent history,” Harris told The Associated Press in a jailhouse telephone call in September 2013.
Harris, who plans to testify, said he was defending himself and that someone in the Maserati shot at him. Police say they found no gun in the Maserati.
Investigators concluded that the shooting stemmed from boastful taunts and possible threats between pimps and hustlers at a casino valet stand following a hip-hop concert at a rented nightclub at the posh Aria resort.
“A lot of people think pimping, prostitution, human trafficking and drugs are victimless crimes,” said Tehran Boldon, a brother of the taxi driver who died, Michael Boldon, 62.
“It’s all lawlessness,” Tehran Boldon said in a recent interview. “My brother was all about love. It was hate that killed him.”
Taxi passenger Sandra Sutton-Wasmund, 48, of Maple Valley, Washington, also died. She was a mother of three, a dress shop owner and hometown chamber of commerce board member who was in Las Vegas for a trade show.
“One bad act, one bad action,” Boldon said. “It just multiplies.”
Harris’ defense attorneys and prosecutors said they expect it will take several days to choose a jury and several alternates from a pool of 250 who filled out written questionnaires. Opening statements could come Thursday. Testimony could take up to six weeks.
The trial will be Harris’ second before Clark County District Court Judge Kathleen Delaney in a little more than two years.
He was convicted in September 2013 and sentenced to 16 years to life in prison for raping and robbing an 18-year-old woman at a Las Vegas condominium in June 2010. Harris is appealing the conviction.
Harris drew another sentence of two to five years after pleading guilty this year to bribing a Nevada prison guard to smuggle in cellphones, takeout chicken, vodka and a phone charger.
Tehran Bolden said he was preparing to tell the court about the crash’s effect on his family, calling it “a life-changer” and the worst day of his life.
“Nothing good comes from a hateful act, and nothing good comes from fear,” he said. “There are more Ammar Harrises out there. We’re creating these kids that have no respect for authority and no respect for themselves.”
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