How did an aspiring rapper from Parnell end up being accused of murdering someone in a California prison?
Aspiring rapper, and Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye’s stepbrother, 29-year-old Clinton Thinn, has been charged with first-degree murder and is being held at maximum security prison George Bailey Detention Facility in San Diego.
The alleged murder of Lyle Woodward, 30, is understood to have taken place inside a prison. A friend of Thinn’s says he had joined a white supremacist group at the facility.
“In America, you have to hang with your own race in jail. He is in maximum security jail. It’s all gangs,” the friend said.
“It looks like the murder has occurred in jail. Who knows what the circumstances are."
The friend said Thinn was living in a bad environment, divided along racial lines, and his mate was lucky to still be alive. "It's kill or be killed in this environment.”
Thinn was arrested in June last year, and faces five counts of attempted robbery, threatening to cause grievous bodily harm or death and assault with a deadly weapon.
He also faces a new charge of first-degree murder for a separate incident.
In a statement to RNZ, Kaye said it was "a difficult and sad time" for all those affected.
At the time of his initial arrest, local media reported Thinn walked into the Bank of America holding a hammer, a rope and an orange flare gun.
According to the San Diego Tribune, Thinn threatened to kill bank employees, and used the hammer to try to shatter a bullet-proof partition that six workers hid behind. No one was injured in the incident, and he was arrested by police inside the bank.
It is understood that Thinn was initially imprisoned for the alleged robbery at a different facility, but was moved to George Bailey after committing the alleged murder. He is yet to stand trial, and his bail is set at US$2 million.
Thinn is due to appear in court on 27 February on the robbery charges. The court date set for the murder charge is 6 March, and there is no date set yet for deportation proceedings.
According to a friend, Thinn travelled to the United States for a holiday in June last year. The friend said he somehow found himself in financial trouble, which led to the botched bank robbery that same month.
Originally from Parnell, Thinn went to prestigious school Auckland Grammar, and East Auckland school Selwyn College.
Public records show he previously owned a share of a commercial property in Kohimarama, and a NZ Herald story from 2011 identifies him as the owner of a black Mercedes E-Class with the number plate 'CLAZZE'.
Thinn's Facebook and Instagram pages are laden with pictures of expensive cars, watches, champagne, international travel and videos of himself rapping.
A friend told the NZ Herald that people led Thinn on - telling him that he was a good rapper.
“Really, people were just leading him on, it was just funny for us to watch. That was his motive to go to the US,'' the friend told the Herald.
A spokesman for the San Diego County District Attorney's office said if convicted of murder, Thinn faced 25 years to life in prison.
The spokesman said he was unsure of Thinn's visa status in the United States. If Thinn was acquitted, the federal government would make a call on whether to deport him or not, he said.
If Thinn is convicted, he will serve his prison time in the US.