LAS VEGAS — Former Raiders player Henry Ruggs officially entered a guilty plea in District Court on Wednesday morning.
It was Ruggs’ first court hearing since attorneys waived Ruggs’ right to a preliminary hearing and announced his plans to plead guilty in a fatal DUI crash that killed 23-year-old Tina Tintor and her dog. Ruggs officially plead guilty Wednesday to a felony count of DUI resulting in death and a misdemeanor charge of vehicular manslaughter.
In a statement released Wednesday, Tintor’s family said they look forward to putting the criminal case behind them in order to “focus on honoring the memories of Tina and Max.”
“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. We appreciate the efforts of the district attorney’s office to overcome the issues caused by the initial investigation.”
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said in a press release that because of a legal dispute over a search warrant, there was a chance that the DUI charge against Ruggs would have been dismissed if prosecutors had not reached a plea deal.
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 count.
“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 Wednesday’s press release, Wolfson said Ruggs’ plea “accomplished our three most important goals” — convicting Ruggs of the strictest charge for drunk 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 plea deal was finalized, according to the press release.
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%, twice the legal limit for drivers in Nevada.
The DUI resulting in death charge that Ruggs faced was “based virtually entirely on the result of the blood draw,” according to the press release from the district attorney’s office.
Ruggs’ defense attorneys had tried to exclude the results of Ruggs’ blood alcohol test from evidence, arguing that police didn’t have probable cause to ask a judge for a warrant to obtain his blood at the hospital following the crash.
The district attorney’s 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 DUI resulting in death charge would have been dismissed. The only significant charge that would have remained, according to the district attorney’s office, was a felony reckless driving charge, which comes with the possibility of probation or a prison sentence of one to six years.
“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 was quoted in the release. “We would have lost the felony DUI charge. We couldn’t take that chance.”