US student sentenced in Hong Kong taxi crash

AP News
Posted: Oct 28, 2010 5:12 AM
US student sentenced in Hong Kong taxi crash

An American university student was sentenced Thursday to four years and three months in prison for causing the crash of a Hong Kong taxi and the death of its driver before commandeering the vehicle and slamming it into another cab.

A day earlier, a jury had found Kelsey Michael Mudd, a student at California State University, Chico, guilty of manslaughter, illegally taking over a vehicle, dangerous driving and drunk driving.

Announcing the sentence Thursday, High Court Judge Alan Wright noted Mudd's blood alcohol level was more than five times the legal limit after the accident on June 27 last year.

"You were staggering drunk," Wright said, adding he was disappointed that the 23-year-old student didn't show any remorse or sorrow for the taxi driver's death.

The judge, however, said he considered the fact that Mudd hadn't intended to drive on the night of the accident and that he is a young man still pursuing his studies.

Mudd, wearing a black suit, showed little emotion after hearing the sentence.

Police said the taxi Mudd was traveling in jumped a road divider and collided with three oncoming cabs. The driver died in a hospital hours later. Hong Kong media reported that Mudd was seen arguing with the driver before the crash.

After the first accident, Mudd took over the taxi and caused a second crash. Local TV news footage showed Mudd moving to the driver's seat as a paramedic tried to treat him. He then sped off in the taxi _ heading in the wrong direction _ and hit another cab head-on.

Mudd's parents said their son wasn't treated fairly.

"I'm very disappointed with the outcome altogether. We think that there was enough confusion that night that nobody really knows what happened and that he was not given the benefit of the doubt," said his father, Michael Mudd.

His mother, Tasha White, said her son was sorry.

"He's very sad about the taxi driver, what happened to him, but he has no memory of what happened," she said.

It wasn't immediately clear if Mudd would appeal. His father said the family will consider "all legal options."

In a message posted on his website last month, Mudd called the charges "unjust."

"I don't believe any crime has been committed," he said.

Mudd, who holds American, Australian and British citizenship, was born in Hong Kong and lived in the then-British colony until age 8, when he moved to Walnut Creek, California, according to his website. He was spending the summer volunteering at a Hong Kong charity when the accident occurred, the website said.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 but maintains separate political, legal and economic systems from the mainland. Unlike the mainland, it does not impose the death penalty.