Strip shooting suspect and self-proclaimed pimp Ammar Harris was found guilty Friday of raping and robbing a woman in June 2010.
“This was round one of two,” District Attorney Steve Wolfson said afterward.
The verdict was significant for prosecutors, who can use the convictions as aggravating factors when seeking the death penalty for Harris for the Strip shooting that left three dead in February. That trial is set to begin in December.
The jury found Harris guilty of three counts of sexual assault and one count of robbery after deliberating for about an hour. A sentencing hearing was set for Nov. 20.
Juror Dennis Carlson said the jurors didn’t take the case lightly. “We all listened and studied the evidence … and I think we came to a just verdict,” he said.
The key evidence in the case came from the testimony of three women, including the victim.
The victim said Harris forced her to perform oral sex on him before raping her in the shower. The Review-Journal generally does not publish the names of sexual assault victims without their permission.
About two weeks later, she accused Harris of choking her and stealing $600 from her wallet.
Jurors also heard from Harris’ former lover and roommate Briana Wright, who testified that Harris told her he had choked two women, including the victim, who were staying with them and working as strippers.
Wright corroborated much of the victim’s testimony, aside from the sexual assault. Her testimony contradicted what Harris told investigators in an interview when he was first arrested.
During the interview, Harris described how the victim and her friend, Ashley, were taking advantage of his generosity. He explained how he bought items for the women and paid for one’s strip club work permit.
Wright testified that Harris had no income and used the money she earned working at a greeting card company.
Harris had said sex with the victim was consensual.
He met the victim and Ashley through MySpace. The two women, high school friends from Texas, moved in with Harris after their Henderson home was raided by federal authorities and a former roommate was arrested on weapons and forfeiture charges. District Judge Kathleen Delaney issued an order last week that prohibits the use of Ashley’s last name during the trial.
Harris said the two women were “choosing up,” a slang term indicating that women want a man to be their pimp or “daddy.”
Harris denied to police that he was a pimp, though he embraced that lifestyle on numerous social media posts, the Review-Journal found. He did not deny taking the victim’s money.
During closing arguments, deputy special public defender Monica Trujillo said the victim was lying about being raped so she could take revenge on Harris for taking her money.
Trujillo pointed out that the victim said she was affectionate toward Harris and kissed him publicly after the sexual assault. She also sent him a mobile phone photograph of herself smiling days later. And after going home to Texas to celebrate her sister’s graduation, the victim returned to Harris without notifying authorities of the rape.
Trujillo said it wasn’t until the money was taken that the victim said she was sexually assaulted.
The defense lawyer said prosecutors were trying to distract the jury by saying he was a pimp, a crime for which he was not charged.
“The defendant is a pimp,” prosecutor David Stanton told the jury, which drew a “hmph” from Harris.
Stanton went on to sarcastically describe Harris as a “good Samaritan” being taken advantage of by the two women, who for “no obvious reason” were funnelling hundreds of dollars in cash into the drawer next to his bed.
And prosecutor Lisa Luzaich pointed out that after Harris’ arrest, he was erroneously released from the county jail. Instead of showing up to his next court appearance, he fled to Los Angeles.
Jurors were allowed to consider his flight as a sign of guilt.
When the verdict was read, Harris, wearing a grey suit with a pink tie, hung his head and shook it back and forth.
Stanton said afterwards he planned on immediately amending court filings to reflect the guilty verdict so it could be used against Harris if he’s convicted at the capital murder trial.
Harris, 27, is set to stand trial Dec. 2 in the fatal shooting of reputed pimp Kenneth “Kenny” Clutch Cherry Jr. The two were driving separate vehicles on the Strip early in the morning of Feb. 21 when Cherry was shot, causing him to crash his car into a taxi.
The cab then burst into flames, killing the driver, Michael Boldon, and his passenger, Sandra Sutton-Wasmund of Maple Valley, Wash.
It is unknown whether defense lawyers will seek to continue the December trial date, but Harris had invoked his right to a speedy trial in both cases.
Judge Delaney has so far obliged his request.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@review journal.com or 702-380-1039.