Man Who Beat Muhlaysia Booker in Viral Video Convicted of Assault

Police were able to track murder suspect Kendrell Lavar Lyles using data from Muhlaysia Booker's cellphone.
Police were able to track murder suspect Kendrell Lavar Lyles using data from Muhlaysia Booker's cellphone. iStock/DallasO75219
A Dallas County jury closed the books on one of the county's highest profile cases of the year Monday afternoon, convicting Edward Thomas of simple assault. Thomas, 29, beat up Muhlaysia Booker in April. The attack, caught on cellphone video, went viral.

Thomas and Booker started fighting after getting into a fender bender in the parking lot of the Royal Crest Apartments in the 3500 block of Wilhurt Avenue in Dallas. After the wreck, the two argued about the accident before Thomas began beating Booker. Others joined in the attack and could be heard shouting homophobic slurs.

In the attack's aftermath, Booker, a transgender woman, became a symbol for the multiple attacks suffered by members of Dallas' trans community over the last year. Booker died about a month after the assault in an unrelated shooting.

During Thomas' trial, prosecutors fought to convict him of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a felony. Thomas' defense team refused to call the victim by her name and insisted that she and Thomas were two men involved in mutual combat, according to reporters in the courtroom.

“Misdemeanor assault is what he did.” — Andrew Wilkerson

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Andrew Wilkerson, Thomas' lead defense attorney, spent a few hours in jail last week after State District Judge Hector Garza had him arrested on contempt charges for his repeated refusal to follow courtroom instructions.

He made it back in plenty of time for closing arguments.

“Misdemeanor assault is what he did,” Wilkerson said. “Misdemeanor assault is what he admitted to.”

Thomas faces up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine following his conviction. Kendrell Lavar Lyles, the 34-year-old man accused of Booker's murder, remains in Dallas County jail. 
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young