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Trucker in ‘Jarheads’ crash who faces deportation wants license back

A commercial truck driver from Ukraine who faces a deportation order is trying to get his driving privileges back now that he’s been acquitted of causing the deaths of seven motorcyclists with the Jarheads Motorcycle Club in New Hampshire.

“I would like to request a hearing to get my license back,” Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 28, wrote to the New Hampshire Department of Safety in September 2023, according to records obtained by The Associated Press under the state’s open records law.

Zhukovskyy awaits a state administrative hearing on the license request as he deals with an unresolved drunken driving charge in Connecticut, where he was arrested a month before the crash in New Hampshire. He rejected a plea deal in that case Jan. 11, according to court records.

The 2022 manslaughter acquittal drew strong comments from Gov. Chris Sununu, who said the seven bikers “did not receive justice,” and from Attorney General John Formella, who said he believed the state proved its case.

Thousands of motorcyclists ride in honor of 7 Marine Jarheads bikers killed

Prosecutors argued that Zhukovskyy — who had taken heroin, fentanyl and cocaine on the day of the crash — repeatedly swerved back and forth before the collision and told police he caused it. But a judge dismissed eight impairment charges and his attorneys said the lead biker was drunk and not looking where he was going when he lost control of his motorcycle and slid in front of Zhukovskyy’s truck.

The jury found him not guilty of multiple manslaughter and negligent homicide counts stemming from the June 21, 2019, collision in Randolph, New Hampshire. The crash killed seven members of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club, an organization of Marine Corps veterans and their spouses in New England.

Zhukovskyy’s license was suspended automatically following his arrest, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained him after the verdict, citing previous convictions of drug possession, driving with a suspended license, furnishing false information and larceny. Zhukovskyy was taken from a New Hampshire county jail to a federal detention facility in Pennsylvania.

Zhukovskyy’s immigration attorney asked for asylum for his client, who came to the U.S. from Ukraine when he was 10 years old and had permanent residency status. A judge ordered Zhukovskyy’s deportation in February 2023 and there is no record of an appeal in the case, according to the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

But it’s unclear how he could be sent to a country at war with Russia. The U.S. has paused repatriation flights to Ukraine and authorized Temporary Protected Status for qualified Ukrainians. Details of the judge’s decision have not been made public.

Zhukovskyy was released from the Pennsylvania facility in April under an order of supervision, according to detention and immigration officials. That type of order allows immigrants to live and work in the U.S., so long as they meet regularly with ICE representatives and agree to follow specific conditions.

Zhukovskyy, who has pleaded not guilty to Connecticut charge, has not responded to requests from The Associated Press for an interview.

The administrative hearing on his driving privileges has been postponed at least twice. Restoration would depend largely on whether Zhukovskyy “materially contributed” to the crash, said Earle Wingate, the lawyer representing him. He said he wanted Zhukovskyy to appear in person, but the prosecutor was granted a request for Zhukovskyy to appear by video, citing safety concerns.

“The motor vehicle crash has been high-profile and has affected an inordinate number of family and friends of the victims and stands to reason to be at the root of elevated emotions for all,” prosecutor Stephen Kace said in his motion.

Wingate agreed that “the emotions could run high,” but noted that security was maintained during Zhukovskyy’s trial.

Motorcyclists from New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island died in the 2019 crash.

At the time of the crash, Zhukovskyy’s commercial driving license, issued in Massachusetts, should have been revoked after his arrest in Connecticut.

Connecticut officials alerted the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, but Zhukovskyy’s license wasn’t suspended due to a backlog of out-of-state notifications about driving offenses. In a review, federal investigators found similar backlog problems in Rhode Island, New Hampshire and at least six other jurisdictions.

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