A woman accused of beating to death a defenseless senior citizen in the restrooms of the Pechanga Casino in Temulca, California will be represented by an all-star defense team as she bids to dodge a possible death sentence.
It helps that Kimesha Monae Williams is the big sister of NBA star Kawhi Leonard, who signed a $103 million contract with the Los Angeles Clippers over the summer.
The Press-Enterprise reports that Williams, 35, and her co-defendant, Candace Tai Tounsel, 39, were in court on Wednesday for a status hearing. They’re pleading not guilty to charges of murder, robbery, and cruelty to an elder over the death of 84-year-old Long Beach woman Afaf Assad, who was found in the Pechanga restroom with a broken skull on August 31.
Best Defense Money Can Buy
Organizing the Williams defense is Leonard’s own attorney, Peter Ginsberg, who is currently representing the athlete in an ongoing copyright infringement lawsuit against Nike.
New York-based Ginsberg — a former criminal prosecutor who now focuses on white-collar criminal defense, sports law, and civil rights cases — told The Press-Enterprise that he was “asked by the family to find the best, so I did.”
Williams will be defended by Virginia Blumenthal, who is widely considered one of the top criminal defense lawyers in the country.
Meanwhile, Tounsel is represented by Richard Swanson, a court-appointed attorney, but one who has defended nine death penalty cases over the past two decades – four successfully.
Prosecutors allege that Williams and Townsel saw Assad enter the casino with her husband at around 7:30 a.m. on the morning of August 31 and noticed a pink purse dangling from her arm.
According to court documents, the accused were observed by the casino’s security camera following her into the restroom and emerging four minutes later.
Assad was found shortly afterwards by a hotel guest and casino employee and taken to the hospital. Her handbag, which contained $1,000 in cash, was missing.
Williams was apprehended on September 3. A day later, Assad died from her injuries, making it a homicide investigation. Townsel was picked up on September 5 after she was stopped for jaywalking.
Tounsel has a prior conviction for petty theft, while Williams has a lengthy criminal history that includes petty theft, grand theft, misappropriating lost property, grand theft auto, and attempted robbery.
At the time of the alleged murder, she was banned from the Pechanga Resort because she had been caught stealing a wallet from a slot machine player back in 2015.
While the defendants are eligible to be tried for capital murder, the Riverside District Attorney’s Office told Casino.org in September it had not yet determined whether to seek the death penalty and will make a decision at a later date.