News Column

Vegas Shooting Suspect Fights Extradition to Nevada

March 15, 2013

Tovin Lapan, Las Vegas Sun

It could be months before Strip shooting suspect Ammar Harris is brought back to Nevada to face trial.

On Thursday, the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, with collaboration from its Clark County counterpart, successfully established the identity of the Strip shooting suspect, who has been in custody since March 1.

Harris, 26, was arrested at a Studio City, Calif., apartment complex a week after the early morning shooting in the heart of Las Vegas' famous tourist corridor that resulted in three deaths.

At a March 4 extradition hearing, Harris requested an identity hearing, forcing authorities to present evidence that they had indeed found the right man.

Thursday morning, a Los Angeles judge formally identified Harris as the wanted suspect after hearing evidence presented by the Los Angeles District Attorney's office. Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said one of the prosecutors from his office went to Los Angeles to assist.

But after his identity was established, Harris refused to waive extradition, and the public defender representing him asked authorities to present a governor's warrant. Authorities now have 90 days to produce the warrant, which includes a copy of the complaint and affidavit stating the crime allegedly committed.

"I expect it to take between 60 to 90 days to get it all taken care of," Wolfson said. "We want this resolved quickly."

Wolfson said the process can sometimes be as short as 30 days, but there are several government departments that come into play.

According to California extradition law, a suspect in a crime committed in another state cannot be arrested without a California governor's warrant, which is issued after the requesting state issues its own governor's warrant.

California law enforcement, however, may arrest a suspected fugitive from another state if the crime allegedly committed is punishable by death or more than one year in prison, which was the case with Harris.

Most suspects facing extradition waive additional hearings, and a governor's warrant is frequently not necessary, Wolfson said.

"Most people waive extradition because they want the issue to be resolved quickly," Wolfson said. "But this is not most cases. This is a man who is charged with three murders and who we plan to vigorously prosecute for three murders."

Several Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys agreed that challenging domestic extradition is rare, but it could be a strategic move to delay the criminal trial and allow the defense more time to prepare.

Wolfson's staff will now send the proper documents to Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval's office for review. Sandoval must issue a governor's warrant that is then sent to California for review by Gov. Jerry Brown.

"This is one of the top three cases we are prosecuting; it's of the highest importance," Wolfson said. "It's routine paperwork, but we have to go through the process, get it signed and have the suspect returned to Nevada. In terms of how long each step takes, a lot of it is out of our control."

A call to Harris' public defender was not immediately returned.

Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba scheduled a status hearing for April 12. Harris is being held without bail at the Los Angeles County jail.

Once the California governor's warrant is issued, Wolfson said, it will be "a matter of a couple of days" before Harris is shepherded back to Las Vegas by law enforcement.

Harris was arrested following a weeklong manhunt launched after he was accused of opening fire Feb. 21 from a Range Rover on a Maserati on the Las Vegas Strip, between Harmon Avenue and Flamingo Road, according to Metro Police.

The driver of the sports car, Kenneth Cherry Jr., was struck by a bullet and killed, police said. He lost consciousness before his car sped through a red light, hitting a taxi, which burst into flames, police said.

Both the cab driver, Michael Boldon, 62, of Las Vegas, and passenger, Sandra Sutton-Wasmund, 48, a businesswoman from Maple Valley, Wash. were killed in the crash.

A passenger in the Maserati was injured.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



Source: (c)2013 Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.) Distributed by MCT Information Services