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Man wanted in US on manslaughter charge claims life at risk if extradited from Ireland

Samuel Joseph Tucker is wanted to stand trial in the US on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Image: RollingNews.ie

AN ALLEGED FUGITIVE, who is wanted in the United States to face a manslaughter charge after a high-speed sports car crash which claimed the life of a young woman, claims his life would be at risk should he be extradited there, the High Court has heard.

Samuel Joseph Tucker (23), with an address at Lorida, Florida was arrested in Mayfield, Cork in August 2018 on foot of an extradition request issued by US authorities.

The American citizen is wanted to stand trial in the US on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) and ‘DUI manslaughter’ after the car he was allegedly driving, a 2017 Maserati Ghibli, crashed in the early hours of 24 June 2017, in Highlands County, Florida.

The accident claimed the life of 22-year-old Alyssa Kay Vice, who was a passenger in the car at the time and was pronounced dead at 3.47am that morning.

Counts one and two of the warrant charge Tucker of driving under the influence with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 grams/dL of blood or more resulting in property damage, with each count carrying a maximum penalty of one-year imprisonment.

Count three of the warrant charges Tucker with driving under the influence manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment.

Warrant

The Circuit Court of the Tenth Judicial District for Highlands County, Florida issued a warrant for Tucker’s arrest on 26 September 2017.

The warrant states that upon arrival of law enforcement agents at the scene on the morning of 24 June 2017, Tucker identified himself as “Sam” and claimed that upon making a turn south of the crash site he lost control of the Maserati he was driving.

It is alleged that Tucker’s blood alcohol level at the time of the accident was 0.162 g/dL, twice the legal Florida drink driving limit and that the car was travelling at approximately 127 miles per hour at the time of the impact, and up to 140 miles per hour during the last five seconds prior to the accident.

The car allegedly knocked over a power-line pole and overturned four times.

The US authorities allege that Tucker left the United States soon after the incident and travelled to Ireland. It is also alleged that Tucker fled the US in order to avoid his trial.

Opening an application for surrender today, Counsel for the Minister for Justice, Elva Duffy BL, told Justice Paul McDermott that the primary charge on which Tucker’s surrender is being requested concerned count three.

Duffy said an affidavit sworn by Victoria Avalon was before the court which set out the circumstances and summarised the facts including that Tucker voluntarily consumed a large amount of alcohol that evening.

Risk of life

Tucker claimed there was a risk to his life if he was extradited to the US and he alleges he had received “vague threats” after the crash, Duffy said. One officer involved said the only contact he had was telling Tucker’s parents he would assist them.

Duffy said the offence of driving under the influence causing death was not one which was “readily transportable” into Irish law but there were three offences in Irish law which may be regarded as corresponding to count three on the facts of the case.

A State normally does not surrender someone unless the offence they are sought for has an equivalent or corresponds to one in their own law.

Simon Donagh BL, for Tucker, outlined to the court objections to the surrender of his client to the US.

The barrister submitted that there was no corresponding offence in Ireland to driving under the influence manslaughter because of the absence of “mens rea”, or intent, in the US which breached his client’s Constitutional right to a fair trial.

“More serious offences like dangerous driving causing death all require some element of mens rea if prosecuted in Ireland but the law in the US seems to replace the concept of mens rea with intoxication,” Donagh added.

Counsel said a serious indictable offence such as driving under the influence manslaughter cannot be one of strict liability as it was incompatible with Article 28 of the Constitution.

Donagh said his second point of objection was the fact no formal request for Tucker’s extradition had been made concerning count three.

The lawyer said his client maintained his life was under threat if he was returned to the US in his affidavit which had not been contradicted.

Donagh said Tucker makes reference of having been shot in another affidavit which had not been filed in the court. “I say that corroborates with what he says in his original affidavit,” submitted counsel.

In reply, Duffy said Donagh was submitting that “mens rea” was required in order to prove an offence in this jurisdiction. “I say intention or recklessness is not required under the Irish offences,” she commented.

Duffy said it was clear that the extraditable offence was count three and the other offences were being relied on.

In relation to the threat to Tucker’s life, Duffy said there was nothing in the additional information received that would support Tucker’s assertion and it had been confirmed that if any issue did arise he would be offered full protection.

Justice McDermott said he would reserve judgment and deliver his ruling on Monday. Tucker was remanded in continuing custody until that date.

Comments are closed as legal proceedings are ongoing. 

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Alison O'Riordan

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