US diplomat faces hit-and-run charges

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iol pic wld Ryan Crocker

AFP

Former United States ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker.

Olympia, Washington - Former US Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan Ryan Crocker is facing drunken driving and hit-and-run charges in Washington state after his vehicle collided with a truck last week, authorities said on Thursday.

Crocker, who stepped down from his job as ambassador to Afghanistan earlier this year because of ill health, recorded twice the legal limit when he took a blood alcohol breath test after the accident, State Trooper Troy Briggs said.

After sitting at a red light in Spokane in eastern Washington on the afternoon of August 14, Crocker attempted to make a right turn from the left lane when he collided with a truck, he said.

“He tried to make it in front of the truck, but didn't quite make it,” Briggs said.

Crocker has pleaded not guilty to the charges, court officials said. His attorney, Julie Twyford, could not immediately be reached for comment.

After the accident, Crocker drove away and was followed by another driver for several miles before pulling into the parking lot of a bank, where state patrol officers arrested him, Briggs said. Neither Crocker nor the truck driver was injured.

Crocker, who was driving a 2009 Ford Mustang convertible, appeared to be intoxicated when officers approached him, Briggs said. He was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol after taking the breath test, he added.

Both the DUI and the hit-and-run charges are gross misdemeanors, and Crocker faces a maximum fine of $5 000 and a maximum of 364 days in jail for each.

A career diplomat, Crocker has also served as ambassador in Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon. He was stationed at the US embassy in Beirut when it was bombed by Islamist militants in 1983 during the Lebanese civil war, and when a US Marine barracks in Lebanon was attacked later that year.

Crocker, a Spokane native, retired from the government in April 2009, becoming dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. He later came out of retirement to take the demanding Kabul post in July 2011.

Crocker, who in 2009 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian award, is next due in court for a pre-trial hearing on Sept. 12 at Spokane County District Court, court officials said. - Reuters


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