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Nevada

Ruggs lawyers to stand trial in fatal crash case

 

On Wednesday, a Las Vegas judge postponed a preliminary hearing in the case of former Raiders player Henry Ruggs, who is charged with felony drunk driving in a 2021 crash that killed a Las Vegas woman.

District Judge Jennifer Schwartz agreed with Ruggs’ attorneys who objected to Magistrate Ann Zimmerman’s attempt to preside over his case, even though a new judge was appointed to take over from the specialized drunk driving court that Zimmerman presided over from January 2022.

Schwartz’s decision delayed the February 1 preliminary hearing.

Schwartz said she would like to give the Clark County District Attorney’s office, representing the Las Vegas court, the opportunity to explain Zimmerman’s efforts to keep the Ruggs case, rather than Magistrate Joe Bonaventure, after he was assigned to take over Ruggs this month. Specialized Drunk Driving Court.

“So what I’m going to do is allow a reprieve,” the judge said. “Again, I have too many questions, so there’s no way I can make a decision on a problem when I don’t even understand what happened.”

Chief Deputy District Attorney Kim Buchanan was in court on Wednesday to represent the court where Zimmerman works.

“I still don’t understand how you can represent both the prosecutor’s office and the Las Vegas court,” the judge told Buchanan.

Schwartz, who said she wants a speedy resolution to the conflict, gave the district attorney’s office the opportunity to file court papers and present her case at the Feb. 24 hearing.

She scheduled a second trial for March 10 so that Ruggs’ lawyers, David Chesnoff and Richard Schoenfeld, could answer, and a third hearing is scheduled for March 22, when the judge can make a decision.

Ruggs stood at the defendant’s desk at Wednesday’s hearing but said nothing before leaving the room.

As a condition of his release on bail, Zimmerman ordered him to keep a portable device to monitor his alcohol consumption several times a day.

During the hearing, Chesnoff told Schwartz that he had never heard of a circumstance in which a judge, after legally transferring a case to another judge, could return it to him without a hearing, which he said was a violation of his client’s constitutional rights.

Chesnoff also claimed that there was a conflict of interest for the DA’s office when he served as prosecutor against Ruggs and represented the court in the Zimmerman case.

“This whole situation, Your Honor, I feel like I’m in the twilight zone,” Chesnoff said. “It’s like being in Alice in Wonderland.”

The stay means the criminal case remains in limbo without a preliminary hearing on the felony and misdemeanor charges against Ruggs.

Ruggs, a former Raiders wide receiver, is charged with a felony of drunk driving resulting in death, drunk driving resulting in substantial bodily injury, two counts of reckless driving resulting in death or serious bodily injury, and misdemeanor associated with the possession of a firearm while intoxicated.

On November 2, 2021, Ruggs’ Chevrolet Corvette crashed into a Toyota RAV-4 driven by 23-year-old Tina Tintor, who, along with her dog, died in a fiery crash.

Ruggs’ girlfriend, Kiara Genai Kilgo-Washington, a passenger in his Corvette, was injured in the crash.

Prosecutors said he was driving at 156 mph in the seconds before the crash, and his blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit for drivers in Nevada.

Ruggs, who played in the 2020 season for the Raiders, appeared in the first seven games of the 2021 season before being released almost immediately by the team following a fatal 2021 crash.

On Monday, Ruggs’ lawyers filed documents with the court alleging that the court did not treat their client in the same way as other defendants accused of driving under the influence.

Zimmerman presided over the drunk driving trial for a year before Bonaventure was chosen to replace her on the specialized court.

Chesnoff and Schoenfeld filed a lawsuit against Zimmerman’s decision to continue to preside over the Ruggs case despite Bonaventure’s appointment.

The filing alleges that Zimmerman “singled out” the Ruggs case by treating it differently than the other defendants and that she violated an administrative order that had all non-domestic violence drunk driving cases be heard by a single judge.

Lawyers demanded that the district judge vacate the order to refer the case to Zimmerman and refer it again to Bonaventure.

Contact Jeff Burbank at [email protected] or 702-383-0382. Follow him @JeffBurbank2 on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Kathleen Newberg contributed to this report.

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