LAS VEGAS (AP) - Ex-Las Vegas Raiders player Henry Ruggs pleaded guilty Wednesday to driving his sports car drunk at speeds up to 156 mph on a city street before causing a fiery crash that killed a woman and her dog.
"Guilty," said the former first-round NFL draft pick, 24, who will avoid trial and is expected to be sentenced Aug. 9 to three to 10 years in state prison under terms of his plea deal with prosecutors. The minimum three-year sentence cannot be reduced by converting the year-and-a-half that he has spent on house arrest to time already served.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson cited possible legal obstacles to obtaining a conviction at trial, said he met several times with relatives of the woman who died, and said the plea agreement with Ruggs "accomplished our three most important goals."
Ruggs was convicted of felony DUI causing death, will go to prison, and won’t be able to appeal his conviction and sentence, the elected district attorney, a Democrat, said in a lengthy written statement. "When someone dies as the result of a drunk driver’s actions, this is the most serious charge the law allows."
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Ruggs declined to comment as he and a group of about nine people left the courthouse following his brief court appearance. He remains free pending sentencing.
"Henry entered his plea today in hopes that it will further the process of healing the wounds caused by the accident," his attorneys, David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld, said in written comments. They promised a "more complete" statement following sentencing.
The Raiders dropped Ruggs while he was still hospitalized following the predawn Nov. 2, 2021, crash that killed 23-year-old Tina Tintor.
Tintor’s mother, brother, uncle and several other family members were in the courtroom Wednesday but departed with their attorneys, Paul Albright and Farhan Naqvi, without comment.
Tintor, 23, was a Serbian immigrant who graduated from a Las Vegas high school, worked at a Target store, wanted to become a computer programmer and was close to obtaining her U.S. citizenship, friends and family members said following her death.
"The family appreciates privacy during this time of mourning," Naqvi said later in a written statement.
Ruggs’ girlfriend, Je’nai Kilgo-Washington, was with him in his 2020 Chevrolet Corvette and also was injured. Prosecutors said Ruggs suffered a leg injury and Kilgo-Washington received an arm injury. Kilgo-Washington and Ruggs have a daughter together, and Kilgo-Washington was not cooperative with prosecutors as a victim in the case.
Last week, Ruggs waived a long-delayed preliminary hearing with his agreement to plead guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol, causing death, a felony, and a misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charge carrying a six-month jail sentence that will be folded in with his three-to-ten year prison term.
Wolfson said shortly after the crash that Ruggs would face a mandatory minimum of two years in prison if convicted and could get more than 50 years. The district attorney said investigators learned that Ruggs spent several hours drinking with friends at a sports entertainment site and golfing venue, and may have been at a friend’s home for several more hours before he and Kilgo-Washington headed home.
Since the crash, Ruggs’ lawyers lost several bids to challenge evidence, including that Ruggs had a blood-alcohol level of 0.16% — twice the legal limit in Nevada — after the rear-end wreck that ignited a fire that killed Tintor and her pet dog, Max.
Wolfson said in his statement that Ruggs might have escaped conviction at trial because Ruggs was not administered a field sobriety test following the crash and his defense attorneys argued that that Ruggs’ blood-alcohol test was improperly obtained at the hospital.