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DA: Prosecutors feared Ruggs’ DUI charge would be dismissed

Updated May 10, 2023 - 5:21 pm

Legal challenges over a search warrant in former Raiders player Henry Ruggs’ fatal DUI case led to the guilty plea agreement in the case, according to District Attorney Steve Wolfson.

“I recognize this outcome is not sufficient to punish Ruggs for the loss the Tintor family has suffered, but there was a legitimate concern that a court would have suppressed the result of the blood draw,” Wolfson said in a statement issued Wednesday by the Clark County district attorney’s office. “We would have lost the felony DUI charge. We couldn’t take that chance.”

Ruggs officially pleaded guilty Wednesday to a felony count of DUI resulting in death and a misdemeanor charge of vehicular manslaughter for the November 2021 crash that killed 23-year-old Tina Tintor and her dog. Last week, defense attorneys waived Ruggs’ right to a preliminary hearing and announced the guilty plea agreement.

According to the statement from the district attorney’s office, there was a chance the DUI charge against Ruggs was going to be dismissed if prosecutors had not reached a plea deal. The dispute stemmed from the search warrant in the case that allowed Las Vegas police to draw Ruggs’ blood at a hospital following the crash.

Defense attorneys have tried to exclude the results of Ruggs’ blood alcohol test from evidence, arguing that police did not have probable cause to ask a judge to sign the warrant.

In a statement released Wednesday, Tintor’s family members said they “appreciate the efforts of the district attorney’s office to overcome the issues caused by the initial investigation.”

“Today, like every day, we remember Tina and Max, and how they were taken from us that fateful night,” Tintor’s family said in the statement. “No sentence will ever bring Tina and Max back, but we hope that everyone learns from this preventable incident so that no other families suffer like we do.”

Ruggs initially faced charges including two counts of DUI resulting in death or substantial bodily harm, stemming from Tintor’s death and injuries prosecutors alleged Ruggs’ girlfriend suffered during the crash. In Nevada, DUI charges carry a possible sentence of two to 20 years in prison, but Ruggs has agreed to serve a sentence of three to 10 years for the single DUI felony charge and the vehicular manslaughter misdemeanor charge.

Sentencing set for August

“Henry entered his plea today in hopes that it will further the process of healing the wounds caused by the accident,” defense attorneys David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld said in a statement released after Wednesday’s hearing. “We will make a more complete statement once the Honorable Court has fully accepted the resolution.”

A judge will have the final say on the sentence, but Ruggs has the ability to withdraw his guilty plea if the judge does not abide by the sentencing agreement.

District Judge Jennifer Schwartz scheduled a sentencing hearing for Aug. 9.

“You understand that by pleading guilty, you’re hereby giving up your constitutional and appellate rights, all of which are listed in the guilty plea agreement you just told me you read through and signed?” Schwartz asked Ruggs during Wednesday’s hearing.

“Yes, your honor,” he replied.

In Wolfson’s statement, he said the plea bargain accomplished the office’s “three most important goals” — convicting Ruggs of the strictest charge for drunken driving, ensuring he will spend time in prison, and taking away his ability to appeal the conviction or sentence.

Wolfson also met with Tintor’s family “several times” before the deal was finalized, according to the statement.

Ruggs’ blood alcohol content

Ruggs is accused of driving up to 156 mph down a residential road before crashing into Tina Tintor’s car on Nov. 2, 2021. Tintor’s vehicle burst into flames, trapping her and her dog inside. Prosecutors have said that after the crash, Ruggs’ blood alcohol level was 0.16 percent, twice the legal limit for drivers in Nevada.

According to the statement from the district attorney’s office, the charge of DUI resulting in death that Ruggs faced was “based virtually entirely on the result of the blood draw.”

The office said Wednesday that there was a “strong likelihood” that a motion to suppress the results of the blood test would have been granted, because police did not give Ruggs a field sobriety test at the scene of the crash, and an officer failed to tell the judge that Ruggs had “bloodshot/watery eyes, smelled of alcohol, or had been drinking prior to the crash.”

If the results of the blood draw were suppressed, there was “virtually no other evidence” to show that Ruggs was intoxicated, and the charge of DUI resulting in death would have been dismissed, according to the district attorney’s office. The only significant charge that would have remained was a felony charge of reckless driving, which comes with the possibility of probation or a prison sentence of one to six years.

In response to a request for comment about the dispute over the search warrant, the Metropolitan Police Department noted that a judge denied the first motion to suppress last year, and that an officer did not give Ruggs a field sobriety test at the scene because of his injuries. The department did not address the argument that police did not have probable cause to ask for a search warrant.

“No legal outcome can ever make the Tintor family whole again,” Metro said in an emailed statement. “But we hope that this brings some level of closure to the family following Tina’s horrific death.”

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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