LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Nevada jury found a six-time convicted felon guilty Friday of kidnapping, robbing and beating an NFL player who was found unconscious a block off the Las Vegas Strip almost two years ago.
Thomas faces up to life in prison at sentencing June 23 by Clark County District Court Judge Douglas Smith. His lawyers vowed to appeal and seek a new trial.
"It was sort of a circus," attorney Betsy Allen said, blaming the judge for allowing the jury to see a photo during prosecution closing arguments Thursday showing Thomas punching Arfat Abdo Fadel at a Las Vegas casino. Allen said the photo cast her client as assaulting his one-time co-defendant.
Allen has said the trial wouldn't have attracted media attention, including gavel-to-gavel coverage by a cable TV network, if not for Walker's fame.
The jury of six men and six women deliberated less than five hours Friday after five days of testimony.
They heard Walker, now a 31-year-old unsigned free agent, acknowledge he was falling-down drunk after a night partying at Las Vegas clubs when he willingly got into a black Range Rover early June 16, 2008, with Thomas and Fadel — two men he didn't know.
Prosecutors showed multiple surveillance videos and photos of Thomas apparently following Walker at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino before inviting him into the vehicle. Walker testified he thought they were heading across the street to an after-hours club, but that he was grabbed by a man in the back seat who began pulling at his 2-carat diamond earrings.
Walker said he handed over the earrings, a diamond-encrusted designer watch and a platinum-and-diamond necklace, all worth tens of thousands of dollars. Jurors were told Walker also lost thousands in cash and several casino chips. Walker had signed a six-year, $55 million contract with an $11 million signing bonus just months before.
He testified he spent several days in a Las Vegas hospital and underwent surgery to repair broken facial bones and misaligned teeth.
Thomas was convicted of six felonies: first-degree kidnapping, robbery, battery, battery with intent to commit a crime, conspiracy to commit robbery and conspiracy to commit kidnapping.
Fadel, 32, pleaded guilty before trial to lesser charges and testified against Thomas in return for a chance at being released from prison in less than 15 years. Fadel is to be sentenced June 28 on robbery, second-degree kidnapping and conspiracy charges.
Fadel, who described himself as a full-time casino gambler, testified he drove while Thomas robbed Walker, and that Thomas told him he punched the football star twice after the two men got out of the vehicle.
As he drove away, Fadel said he could see in his rearview mirror the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Walker kneeling over in a vacant parking lot where he was found unconscious a short time later.
Fadel said he and Thomas split the jewelry. Each took one of the diamond earrings and Fadel's girlfriend redeemed two $1,000 casino chips. The earrings, necklace and watch were never recovered.
Thomas did not testify. Allen tried to convince jurors that Fadel got what she called a "sweetheart deal" by shaping his story to blame Thomas. She also suggested Walker was so intoxicated he could have lost the jewelry and hurt himself falling down.
Thomas had five prior felony convictions dating back to 1987 in California's Alameda County on charges including cocaine possession, assault with a firearm, being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm and possession of cocaine base for sale, according to court records.
He was sentenced Thursday to five years in Nevada prison for a sixth felony conviction — a separate case stemming from the theft of a tourist's designer watch the same month as the attack on Walker, Tomsheck said.
The prosecutor said the state is seeking to have Thomas sentenced to life in prison as a habitual criminal.
When he was arrested in July 2008, Thomas was free on $200,000 bail in a pandering, kidnapping, child abuse and statutory sexual seduction case involving a 15-year-old girl, prosecutor Nell Keenan said. That case is set for trial in May.