LAS VEGAS — A self-described pimp who once posted online images of himself with fists full of cash told a Las Vegas judge on Wednesday that he had no money to hire a lawyer to defend himself against charges that he killed three people in a shooting and fiery crash Feb. 21 on the Strip.
Ammar Harris, 27, stood in shackles and told Justice of the Peace Deborah Lippis that he understood he faces 11 felonies, including murder, attempted murder and seven discharging a weapon counts.
Harris wasn’t asked to enter a plea. The judge appointed two public lawyers to defend him, ordered him held without bail and set his next court appearance for April 29.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said the case is a top priority and prosecutors will consider seeking the death penalty.
Harris is accused of firing fatal shots before dawn Feb. 21 from a black Range Rover into a Maserati sports car that then slammed into a taxi, killing the cab driver and a tourist from Washington.
Defense lawyers David Schieck and Randall Pike said Harris plans to plead not guilty and fight the charges. They declined to speak about evidence in the case.
Tehran Boldon, younger brother of taxi driver Michael Boldon, who was killed, called it difficult to maintain composure in the courtroom, where Harris avoided eye contact.
“I don’t know what the district attorney is going to do, but there should be no mercy for this man,” Boldon said before breaking into sobs in the hallway. “I hope the court lets the world know that these kinds of actions won’t be tolerated.”
Boldon added that he expected Harris would seek a state-appointed lawyer, despite the 90-second YouTube video that was taken down after Harris was named as the prime suspect in the Strip carnage.
“He’ll let the taxpayers foot the bill,” Boldon said. “He’s a coward, it’s obvious.”
The video showed Harris wearing a red baseball cap and crisp white shirt with flashy sunglasses tucked in the collar, fanning a thick stack of $100 bills and boasting about luxury cars, prostitutes and living in a house full of women who are all paying him.
Records show Harris was never convicted of pimping. But he was arrested last year in Las Vegas in a 2010 prostitution case using the name Ammar Asim Faruq Harris. Police sought charges of pandering by force and felon in possession of concealed weapon, but he was charged with robbery, sexual assault, kidnapping and coercion with a weapon. The case was dismissed last June.
Harris was convicted in South Carolina in 2004 of felony possession with intent to sell a stolen pistol and convicted in Atlanta of a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge.
He was arrested Feb. 28 at an apartment in Studio City in Los Angeles and returned to Las Vegas early Tuesday. He fought extradition until the governors of California and Nevada signed orders for his transfer.
Police allege that Harris and aspiring rapper Kenneth Wayne Cherry Jr. exchanged angry words in a hotel valet area before Harris fired shots that mortally wounded Cherry behind the wheel of the Maserati on the Strip.
Cherry’s cousin, Shanna Cherry, said she was in court Wednesday to express her family’s hopes for justice on behalf of everyone affected. Most of Cherry’s family lives in the Oakland, Calif., area.
Michael Boldon, 62, of Las Vegas, and passenger Sandra Sutton-Wasmund, 48, of Maple Valley, Wash., were killed when the Maserati slammed into Boldon’s taxi on Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road. The neon-lit crossroads features such iconic resorts as Caesars Palace, Bellagio, Bally’s and the Flamingo.
Another man in the Maserati suffered gunshot wounds, and four other people in several vehicles were hurt in chain-reaction crashes.
Police found no gun in the Maserati and no evidence that Cherry returned fire before the crash.
The Range Rover was found two days later at an apartment complex near the Strip. Harris was arrested the following week, after an intense multi-state manhunt.