Henry Ruggs’ defense attorneys are once again asking a District Court judge to weigh in on which justice of the peace will oversee proceedings in the former Raiders player’s fatal DUI case.
The case has bounced between different judges in the Las Vegas Justice Court in recent weeks, and defense attorneys have argued that Justice of the Peace Joe Bonaventure did not properly recuse himself.
Defense attorneys David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld filed a petition on Tuesday asking District Judge Jennifer Schwartz to move the case back to Bonaventure’s courtroom.
Ruggs is facing charges of DUI, reckless driving and possession of a firearm while under the influence in connection with a fiery November 2021 crash that killed 23-year-old Tina Tintor. He is accused of driving up to 156 mph down a residential street seconds before the fatal crash. Prosecutors have said that after the crash, his blood alcohol level was 0.16 percent, twice the legal limit for drivers in Nevada.
The case was previously overseen by Justice of the Peace Ann Zimmerman, who presided over the DUI specialty court.
Defense attorneys have argued that Ruggs was “singled out” when Zimmerman moved to continue overseeing the case in January, even though Bonaventure took over the specialty court during routine judicial reassignments.
Schwartz then ordered the case to be moved to Bonaventure’s department, and noted in a court order that the case should be transferred to Letizia’s courtroom if there was not a DUI specialty court to preside over it.
Last month, Bonaventure recused himself from the case, noting that he had made comments about the proceedings while running for office last year. He had presided over Ruggs’ initial court appearance, during which he set a $150,000 bail for Ruggs.
“Justice of the Peace Bonaventure did not disclose what statements he made nor did Justice of the Peace Bonaventure make a record that the statements committed or appeared to commit him to reach a particular result or rule in a particular way in the case,” defense attorneys wrote in Tuesday’s petition.
Bonaventure had also indicated that he met with Chief Justice of the Peace Cynthia Cruz about the case’s status before recusing himself, according to the petition. Chesnoff and Schonfeld argued that if Cruz knew Bonaventure intended to recuse himself, then she should not have allowed the case to be assigned to him without requiring Bonaventure to “state the facts supporting his disqualification.”
The defense attorneys asked the District Court judge to enter an order preventing lower court judges from discussing the case without Ruggs’ defense attorneys present.
“The series of private discussions about this case, disguised as administrative procedures, is alarming,” the petition states.
A hearing in District Court is scheduled for March 22, and a preliminary hearing in front of Letizia is currently scheduled for May 4.