'Thug' Presley, Elvis' cousin, pleads guilty in fatal melee

No one's throwing a party at the county jail for inmate Kristopher Presley, a distant cousin of Elvis Presley and an aspiring hip-hop artist who pleaded guilty Wednesday to involuntary manslaughter in District Court.

That doesn't mean the inmate who calls himself "Thug Presley" has regrets about leaving.

District Judge David Barker sentenced Presley to 18 months to four years in prison for a fatal confrontation in 2004. Since Presley already has served more than 1,100 days in jail during the case, he is essentially a free man. He is expected to be released soon from the Clark County Detention Center.

Speaking in a slow Southern drawl, Presley told the judge that he regretted killing Martin Diaz-Barboza after getting into a fight outside a mini-mart on Tropicana Avenue near Boulder Highway. A police report said the confrontation grew out of a racial slur uttered by a friend of Presley in front of a couple of Hispanic men, including Diaz-Barboza.

Presley said he wants to get the experience behind him.

"I regret what happened. I'm so sorry," said Presley, a native of Tennessee who lives in Las Vegas on and off to pursue his music career.

Authorities said Presley struck Diaz-Barboza with his SUV and then ran over him. A Las Vegas police detective who investigated the collision said in a police report that Presley didn't brake during the incident.

Presley left the scene after the crash but was taken into custody shortly after the killing. He initially denied that he was driving the SUV but then said it was self-defense.

Presley's attorney, Greg Denue, said his client often cries about the killing when he talks about it. "He's tried to get on with his life," Denue said. "With his music career, he has a very bright future."

Presley has the same piercing blue eyes as Elvis, but that's where the similarities end. At 25, he keeps his brown hair cut short and has a row of gold teeth that flash when he smiles.

Presley has worked a variety of jobs but has dreams of following in the footsteps of his famous cousin and becoming a world-famous singer.

He has focused on hip-hop and said he'll soon release his first major-label album, titled "White Gold."

Denue, who also advises Presley on his music career, has been pushing him to sing country music too.

"Your last name is Presley. I want you to think NASCAR and pit stops," Denue recalls telling Presley.

But in an interview at the jail, Presley said he's going to be a hip-hop artist. "It's like the modern-day rock 'n' roll," he said.

Presley said his great-grandfather was a first cousin of Elvis' father, but he added that he has no connection to the wealth associated with Graceland. Presley downplays his connection to Elvis, a link that was discovered through other sources.

Presley grew up in a single-parent house in a poor area of Memphis, Tenn., and said being raised there informs his music. He has moved between Memphis and Las Vegas since he was 16. His mother lives in Las Vegas and was to star in a reality television show that would have had her date Elvis impersonators, Denue said. The show wasn't picked up.

Ignacio "Nachi" Jimenez, Presley's manager, said Presley, a father of three, essentially raised himself. Jimenez said he's known Presley for about five years and believes he'll go far despite his rough background.

"He grew up on the streets living a real rough life," Jimenez said. "I felt bad for the kid that he had such a rough life."

But Presley said growing up poor is one of the things he has in common with Elvis.

"He came up from the projects too," Presley said.

Contact reporter David Kihara at dkihara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.