POSTED: 07:22 a.m. HST, Feb 01, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 07:24 a.m. HST, Feb 01, 2014
JACKSON, Miss. >> To hear Natasha Stewart tell it, she was just trying to help an insecure woman when she helped arrange for her to get silicone injections in her buttocks, shots that prosecutors say were deadly. A jury disagreed, convicting Stewart on Friday of culpable negligence manslaughter.
Stewart, of suburban Memphis, Tenn., was found guilty Friday in Jackson, Miss., in the death of 37-year-old Karima Gordon of Atlanta.
Authorities say Stewart, an adult entertainer also known as Pebbelz Da Model, took $200 for a referral to the alleged injector and falsely represented that the injector was a nurse.
Stewart testified Friday that Gordon was insecure about her body and wanted help fixing previously botched buttocks enhancements. Stewart said she connected Gordon with the woman performing the injections to help her out, not for money, but she said Gordon insisted on paying her.
Stewart had been charged with "depraved-heart" murder, defined as a "callous disregard for human life" resulting in death, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. She also had been charged with conspiracy to commit depraved-heart murder.
Paul Brown, a friend of Stewart's who was in court throughout the trial, said he spoke to her after the conviction and that she expressed her condolences to the victim's family.
"She's very sorry that Karima died," Brown told The Associated Press. "She wants to give her care, comfort and condolences to the family of Karima Gordon for the loss of their daughter and sister."
Jurors decided to go with the option they had been given to convict Stewart of the lesser charge. They also found her guilty of conspiracy to commit culpable negligence manslaughter. She faces up to 20 years in prison for each charge. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Stewart, wearing what appeared to be an orange wig, showed little emotion immediately after the verdict was read. She was found not guilty on the charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Stewart had testified that she thought the woman performing the injections at a Jackson house was indeed a registered nurse and had gotten the injections herself more than 20 times over seven years.
"She told me that she was an RN," Stewart testified.
But Patrick Beasley, a prosecutor with the Mississippi attorney general's office, said someone would have to be "dumb" not to know Garner wasn't a nurse when she used veterinary syringes and sealed the injection sites with cotton balls and glue.
Prosecutors say Gordon died from silicone embolism in her lungs about a week after getting the shots in March 2012.
Tracey Lynn Garner, the one suspected of administering the injections, is charged with depraved-heart murder in the deaths of Gordon and another woman, Marilyn Hale of Selma, Ala. She has pleaded not guilty. Her trial is scheduled for March.
Emails introduced Friday in Stewart's case showed that Gordon was a fan of Stewart and was persistent in asking for help to get buttocks injections beginning in 2010.
"I won't give up my mission to ultimately achieve a tastefully great butt enhancement," Gordon wrote in one of the messages.
Gordon's friend, Anglean Barber, testified Thursday that she and Gordon flew to New York to meet Stewart at a club in Queens where Stewart was hosting a party in February 2012 and that Stewart later referred them to Garner.
Barber said she and Gordon wanted the same kind of buttocks enhancement that Stewart had gotten with hopes of becoming models in the hip-hop industry.
Barber said she and Gordon drove to Garner's house in Jackson on March 16, 2012, and both planned to get the injections. Barber said she was unsettled by the appearance of Garner, who was a man before having gender reassignment surgery, and decided not to get the injections. Barber said Gordon got sick immediately after getting the shots.
A doctor testified Thursday that Gordon died in a Georgia hospital on March 24, 2012, of silicone embolism in her lungs.
During closing arguments, Stewart's attorney, Kevin Camp, said that the jury should find his client not guilty because "nobody knew that this situation was going to cause any imminent death."
Prosecutors, however, argued that Stewart charged money and lied when she told Gordon that the woman performing the injections was a registered nurse.