Man wanted in US for manslaughter claims life at risk if extradited

Samuel Joseph Tucker allegedly involved in car crash which killed young woman

 A US police poster seeking the arrest of Samuel Joseph Tucker

A US police poster seeking the arrest of Samuel Joseph Tucker

 

An alleged fugitive who is wanted in the United States to face a manslaughter charge after a high-speed car crash which killed 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 June 24th, 2017, in Highlands County, Florida.

Alyssa Kay Vice (22), who was a passenger in the car at the time, was pronounced dead at 3.47am that morning.

Counts one and two of the warrant charge Mr 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 Mr Tucker with driving under the influence manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment.

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

It is alleged that Mr Tucker’s blood alcohol level at the time of the crash was 0.162 g/dL, twice the legal Florida drink driving limit and that the car was travelling at approximately 200km/h at the time of the impact, and up to 230km/h during the last five seconds prior to the crash.

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

The US authorities allege that Mr Tucker left the United States soon after the incident and travelled to Ireland in order to avoid his trial.

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

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

Mr 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, Ms Duffy said.

Simon Donagh BL, for Mr 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,” Mr 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.

Mr Donagh said his second point of objection was the fact no formal request for Mr 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.

Mr Donagh said Mr 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, Ms Duffy said Mr 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.

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