LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said prosecutors were concerned blood evidence in the case against Henry Ruggs would never have made it to trial, leading to a plea deal, which could send the former Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver to prison for up to 10 years.
Ruggs, 24, pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of felony DUI resulting in death and a misdemeanor charge of vehicular manslaughter. Ruggs crashed into Tina Tintor, 23, and her dog, Max, when he was speeding on Rainbow Boulevard at 156 mph in November 2021, police said.
As part of the plea agreement, Ruggs could serve anywhere from three to 10 years. He is not eligible for probation or an appeal, Wolfson said. A judge will have the final say on Ruggs’ sentence.
“Why did we get to this plea agreement?” 8 News Now Investigator David Charns asked Wolfson on Wednesday.
“You know, this is an agonizing case,” he said. “We believed that there was a strong likelihood that the blood alcohol evidence would be suppressed. And without that blood test in evidence, we don’t have a felony DUI charge.”
That test showed Ruggs’ had twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood in the hours after the crash, police said.
Ruggs’ attorneys, David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld, filed a motion to have the blood evidence suppressed in May 2022. A judge denied the request.
Chesnoff and Schonfeld argued Metro police had no probable cause to take a sample of Ruggs’ blood because the Metro officer who called a judge for the warrant, which is standard procedure in DUI cases, did not include reasons why he thought Ruggs was impaired.
Transcripts reveal officers did not mention anything to the judge regarding Ruggs’ intoxication, even though the test would later show he was, in fact, impaired. Instead, the officer tells the judge Ruggs was “driving at a high rate of speed” and was “going in and out of traffic” before the deadly collision.
Chesnoff and Schonfeld also said the “officer approached his sergeant to ask what he should do as a result of not being able to verify impairment, and whether that should be included in the affidavit in support of the warrant,” court documents said.
The officer mentioned his suspicion of DUI, that Ruggs told officers at the hospital “he was on his way home from home” and that his girlfriend told police she was drinking, but there was no mention of hints to impairment, records showed.
“A police officer in good faith who called the judge for the warrant gave very, very few facts to support the probable cause that he was impaired,” Wolfson said.
Without the blood evidence, had it not been entered into evidence at trial, prosecutors would have been left with a reckless driving charge, something that could have left Ruggs with the possibility of just probation, Wolfson said.
“Under this settlement, Mr. Ruggs is going to prison, he’s getting a prison sentence of 10 years with the chance of getting out after three,” Wolfson said.
“Henry entered his plea today in hopes it will further the process of healing the wounds caused by the accident,” Chesnoff and Schonfeld said in a statement.
“Today, like every day, we remember Tina and Max, and how they were taken from us that fateful night,” Tintor’s family said in a statement via their attorney, Farhan Naqvi. “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, and we look forward to putting this behind us so that we can focus on honoring the memories of Tina and Max.”
A judge scheduled Ruggs’ sentencing for Aug. 9.
“No field sobriety tests were administered the night of the accident because Ruggs was transported to a hospital due to his injuries,” a Metro spokesperson said. “No legal outcome can ever make the Tintor family whole again. But we hope that this brings some level of closure to the family following Tina’s horrific death.”
Nevada’s DUI resulting in death statute carries a prison sentence of 2-20 years. It is classified as a Category B felony.
A 2020 ruling from the Nevada Supreme Court said prosecutors’ attempts to charge a speeding intoxicated driver who killed a man with murder was not legal. In their order, the justices wrote: “although malice may be inferred from the facts of this case, which would support a charge of second-degree murder, the Legislature has preempted such a charge for cases of non-intentional vehicular homicide.”
Wolfson said his office was working with lawmakers to beef up penalties in DUI and reckless driving cases.