Ukrainian driver acquitted in crash ordered to be deported
A judge has ordered the deportation of a commercial truck driver from Ukraine who was taken into custody by immigration authorities last year shortly after he was acquitted of causing the deaths of seven motorcyclists in New Hampshire.
Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 27, of West Springfield, Massachusetts, had a series of immigration hearings after he was acquitted in August on seven counts of manslaughter, seven counts of negligent homicide and one count of reckless conduct. The charges stemmed from a June 21, 2019 crash in Randolph, New Hampshire, that killed seven members of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club, an organization of Marine Corps veterans and their spouses.
Zhukovskyy's attorney has asked for asylum for his client, who came to the U.S. when he was 10 years old. His lawyers say he has permanent residency status. However, on Feb. 3, the immigration judge ordered Zhukovskyy’s removal, according to the Executive Office for Immigration Review.
Zhukovskyy, who has been held in Pennsylvania, has until March 8 to file an appeal.
“I'm not going to be able to give you any comments on the record," his attorney, Kevin Murphy, told The Associated Press on Thursday. Zhukovskyy's family declined to comment.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ordered Zhukovskyy to be detained after the 2019 crash, and he was picked up following the verdict in New Hampshire on Aug. 9. He had been jailed in New Hampshire between the time of the crash and the verdict.
Motorcyclists from New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island died in the accident.
Prosecutors argued that Zhukovskyy — who had taken heroin, fentanyl and cocaine earlier 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 charges related to whether he was impaired, and his attorneys blamed the lead biker, Albert “Woody” Mazza Jr., saying he was drunk and not looking where he was going when he lost control of his motorcycle and slid in front of Zhukovskyy’s truck.
“At this point in time and with everything that happened the way it did, it’s really superficial to me," Manny Ribeiro, a former Jarheads member who was injured in the crash, said of the deportation order. “In the big picture, it’s miniscule."
According to ICE, Zhukovskyy was previously convicted of drug possession, driving with a suspended license, furnishing false information and larceny.
It was unclear under what circumstances he could be sent back to Ukraine, given that the country is a war zone. Details of the judge's decision were not made public.
In March 2022, ICE paused repatriation flights to Ukraine after the country was attacked by Russia. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also announced it was authorizing Ukrainians for Temporary Protected Status for 18 months.
The designation “is based on both ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions in Ukraine that prevent Ukrainian nationals, and those of no nationality who last habitually resided in Ukraine, from returning to Ukraine safely," the department said.
Associated Press reporter Michael Casey contributed to this story.