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August 21, 2014

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Suspect in Las Vegas Strip shooting reconsiders, enters not guilty pleas

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Steve Marcus

Ammar Harris, the suspect the Feb. 21 Las Vegas Strip shooting and car crash that killed three people, appears in court at the Regional Justice Center Wednesday, April 17, 2013.

Updated Monday, May 13, 2013 | 12:34 p.m.

Strip Shooting Suspect Makes Court Appearance

Ammar Harris, the suspect the Feb. 21 Las Vegas Strip shooting and car crash that killed three people, appears in court at the Regional Justice Center Wednesday, April  17, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Ammar Harris Back in Las Vegas

Ammar Harris is brought to the Clark County Detention Center on April 16, 2013, to be booked on charges related to a shooting and fiery crash on the Las Vegas Strip in which three people were killed Feb. 21, 2013. Launch slideshow »

The suspect charged with three counts of murder stemming from a spectacular and unprecedented shooting in February on the Las Vegas Strip changed his mind after indicating earlier in the day he wanted to plead guilty.

The unofficial statement by Ammar Harris, 26, Las Vegas, was made Monday morning in a Clark County courtroom but hours later Harris pleaded not guilty to all 11 counts he's facing.

Harris made the initial statement after he pleaded not guilty to three sexual assault charges stemming from 2010. His lawyer, David Schieck, a special public defender, said he didn’t agree with Harris’ decision and asked for mental evaluation for his client.

Harris’ hearing was then suspended until later in the day. The hearing resumed shortly after 11 a.m. and, after consulting with Schieck, Harris entered the not guilty plea on each of the counts.

When he returned to the courtroom after the delay, Harris told Judge Kathleen E. Delaney his lawyers informed him that if he plead guilty he would have to “ultimately lie to you about the charges.”

After the hearing, Schieck would not go into detail about his conversation with his client. However Schieck did say he believed some of the charges were not accurate and there were defenses available to Harris.

Last week, District Attorney Steve Wolfson filed notice with the court his office would seek the death penalty against Harris, who is charged with firing from his Range Rover into a Maserati driven by Kenneth Cherry Jr. early Feb. 21 while the vehicles were making their way up the Las Vegas Strip.

Cherry and a passenger, Freddy Walters, were struck by the gunfire, Metro Police said. Cherry’s wounds caused him to lose control of the car, which ran a red light at Flamingo Road and crashed into a taxi. The impact caused the cab to explode.

Three people were killed and are listed as victims in connection with the three first-degree murder counts Harris faces: Cherry; the cab driver, Michael Boldon, 62, of Las Vegas; and cab passenger Sandra Sutton-Wasmund, 48, a businesswoman from Maple Valley, Wash.

Walters survived and is the victim named in the indictment in connection with an attempted murder count.

While Schieck would not comment on strategy, other defense attorneys familiar with the case told The Sun the defense is likely to challenge the two murder charges related to the car accident and subsequent fire in the cab and will argue that the circumstances warrant a lesser charge.

Tehran Boldon, brother of cab driver Michael Boldon, said he thought about the case a lot Sunday, Mother’s Day, how his brother was not here to celebrate with his mother and the children of the passenger in his brother’s cab no longer have a mother with whom to celebrate.

“Strangely enough I wanted a trial Boldon said. “I didn’t want him to plead guilty. I want to see everybody. I want to know all the facts, and I want the world to know how senseless it is. It will never go away for me and my family.”

The sexual assault charges stem from Harris’ arrest in 2010. The charges later were dropped, but a witness re-emerged after Harris’ arrest this year, and Harris was indicted in April on three counts of sexual assault and one count of robbery related to the 2010 arrest.

Harris’ trial for the three sexual assault charges and one robbery charge is scheduled to start July 8.

His trial for the 11 felony charges, including three murder charges, related to the Feb. 21 shooting on the Las Vegas Strip is scheduled for Sept. 9.

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