Former Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III was speeding at 156 mph with twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system before he slammed into another car, killing that driver, officials said Wednesday.
Ruggs was in a wheelchair and wearing a neck brace during his first appearance in Las Vegas Justice Court, where a judge set the player’s bail at $150,000.
Clark County prosecutors had asked for $1 million bail for Ruggs, who was booked into custody Tuesday night on suspicion of DUI resulting in substantial bodily harm or death and reckless driving, officials said.
Ruggs could still face other, more serious charges stemming from Tuesday’s fatal crash when he was behind the wheel of a Corvette that slammed into the back of a Toyota Rav4 at 3:39 a.m. PDT on Tuesday, police said.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Eric Bauman said he was particularly troubled by the crash because pro football players can get free rides home through their union in a program aimed at curtailing impaired driving.
“Based on defendant’s reckless, wild and out-of-control course of conduct … the defendant has established that he’s danger to our community,” Bauman told the judge.
Due to the high-speed impact to the Toyota’s fuel tank, the car caught fire and 23-year-old Las Vegas resident Tina Tintor and her dog were killed, near South Rainbow Boulevard and South Spring Valley Parkway, officials said.
Ruggs was clocked 156 mph 2.5 seconds before impact and was traveling at 127 mph at impact, according to prosecutors, citing data from the Corvette’s air bags.
Ruggs also had a firearm in the car, and Bauman said possession of a weapon while intoxicated could lead to another serious charge.
Blood was drawn from Ruggs shortly after the crash, showing a blood alcohol level of .161, twice the legal limit for driving under the influence in Nevada, prosecutors said.
“I cannot recall a speed that high in my career on the bench,” said Justice of the Peace Joe Bonaventure, who ordered Ruggs to surrender his passport, submit to electronic monitoring and not to take any alcohol or drugs.
Outside the courtroom on Wednesday, defense lawyer David Chesnoff urged the public to reserve judgement until all investigations are complete. He declined to comment on his client’s speedometer allegedly reaching 156 mph.
“We’re going to investigate the case. We’re going to adjudicate it in the courtroom,” Chesnoff told reporters. “This is America, he’s entitled to his day in court.”
Ruggs could face a maximum of 46 years behind bars for the various charges he may face, Bauman said.
DUI resulting in substantial bodily harm or death and reckless driving have maximum punishments of 20 and six years, respectively.
The DA could also try to charge Ruggs with a 20-year enhancement based on the weapons offense, according to Brian Wall, associated dean of the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
The weapons enhancement, though, would be most appropriate if the gun were used “in the commission of the crime” and the defense would argue that “the possession of a firearm was incidental, it wasn’t part of the commission of driving the way he was driving,” Wall said.
“This is obviously life-changing for the person who was driving and an incredibly, incredibly tragic thing for the woman who lost her life,” Wall told NBC News on Wednesday.
The wide receiver was cut by the Raiders late Tuesday.
Ruggs had been playing in his second NFL season out of Alabama. In 20 games of his young NFL career with the Raiders, Ruggs has caught 50 passes for 921 yards and four touchdowns.