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Accused Strip shooter gets 2 to 5 years for prison cellphone smuggling

Ammar Harris, a self-proclaimed pimp charged in a shooting that left three people dead on the Strip, was sentenced Wednesday to an extra two to five years in prison for a scheme to smuggle cellphones into High Desert State Prison.

Harris, who is imprisoned after a conviction for sexual assault and robbery charges, accepted a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty in October to bribing a public officer. Fellow inmate Derrick McKnight also agreed to plead guilty to the same charge.

In a separate hearing for another defendant in the case, a Nevada Department of Corrections supervisor testified that Harris wanted the phones to escape from prison.

Harris’ defense lawyers have said there was no evidence that he was plotting an escape.

A former corrections officer at High Desert, Derland Blake, pleaded guilty in September to asking for or receiving a bribe for helping get a pair of cell phones and a charger to Harris.

The Nevada Attorney General’s office has said that cell phones and other contraband were found inside Harris’ prison cell in May.

Harris sent $2,000 to an associate, Amy Colon, who wired the money to Charmain Simmons, the mother of McKnight, authorities said. Simmons slipped the cash to Reann Gadson, who bought two Verizon Wireless phones and handed them off to Olga Gonzalez, state prosecutors said.

Gadson and Gonzalez then met with Blake, who smuggled the phones and other items to the inmates, state investigators said.

After the phones were found in Harris’ cell, he was moved to Ely State Prison, Nevada’s highest security penitentiary.

Even before the cell phones were smuggled, Harris tried to plot an escape, according to Deputy Attorney General Karen Whelan. After he was arrested in Los Angeles, Harris spoke of blowing up an extradition van, according to the prosecutor.

Authorities also reviewed jail phone calls in which Harris talked about bribing judges and implied that he wanted to somehow get to Cuba, she said.

“It places everybody in danger,” Whelan said. “It not only places the other (corrections officers) in the facility in danger, it places the inmate population in danger, and it places the community at large in danger. He doesn’t have a lot to lose, so that danger level is even higher.”

District Judge Kathleen Delaney asked Harris if he had anything to say about the bribery case. He responded: “No ma’am. Not at all.”

Harris, who faces the death penalty in the Strip slayings, is charged with shooting reputed pimp Kenneth “Kenny” Clutch Cherry Jr. as the two drove separate vehicles.

Cherry crashed his car into a taxi, which burst into flames, killing the driver, Michael Boldon, and his passenger, Sandra Sutton-Wasmund of Maple Valley, Wash.

Contact reporter David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @randompoker

 

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