Anne Sacoolas pleads guilty to the death of British teen Harry Dunn

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LONDON – US citizen Anne Sacoolas, 45, who her lawyers say worked for a US intelligence agency, pleaded guilty in a British court on Thursday to causing death by careless driving when she drove on the wrong side of the road and killed a 19- year-old motorcyclist.

The plea marked a step forward in what has become a high-profile diplomatic dispute and three-year fight for justice by the family of victim Harry Dunn. Sacoolas’ sentencing is scheduled for November.

The case is unique because the US government claimed Sacoolas, who was employed by the State Department, had diplomatic immunity after the crash and she left Britain less than three weeks after the incident while the investigation was ongoing.

It is also rare in the UK for a defendant to appear in an entire criminal trial via video link, as Sacoolas has done so far. The judge in the case ordered Sacoolas to appear in person for his sentencing — but it’s unclear if she will.

She could be sentenced to a relatively short prison term – with a maximum of five years – but shorter sentences and community service are also possible.

Dunn’s mother, Charlotte Charles, told reporters after the guilty plea that it represented the fulfillment of a promise she made the night her son was killed and that she can “stand aside now and let the courts do their thing .”

“Every single day, every bit of pain you feel from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed – all the hours you lay awake at night fighting that pain and holding it in your stomach, which also kept the promise burning,” she said. “It was like it was all just released.”

In court hearings in Britain and the United States, Sacoolas has been described as the wife of an American intelligence officer and as an intelligence officer herself.

In U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., in 2021, one of her attorneys, John McGavin, said, “Mr. and Mrs. Sacoolas were employed by an intelligence agency in the United States, and that’s why she left.”

McGavin told the court he was unable to “quite frankly” explain the family’s departure. “I know the answer, but I can’t reveal it,” he told the court.

Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity claimed on her behalf by the US government after the crash near an air force base in Northamptonshire, England – and was able to leave Britain 19 days after the incident.

The US government refused to extradite Sacoolas to Britain to face personal charges.

Since the fatal crash, Dunn’s family has been fighting for Sacoolas to be stripped of her diplomatic immunity so she can return to court.

Anne Sacoolas, accused of killing British teenager Harry Dunn, worked for US intelligence, lawyer says in court

Dunn was killed in August 2019 when Sacoolas hit her motorcycle while riding on the wrong side, according to British police.

Sacoolas merged with a roadway near Royal Air Force Croughton station, a US Air Force installation where many intelligence workers are based. Sacoolas, her diplomat husband and her children had recently moved to the base.

She had only been in Britain a short time, and as newcomers quickly learn, the British drive on the left side of the road while the Americans drive on the right.

She had been formally charged with “causing death by dangerous driving” in 2019, but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of causing death by “careless driving” – a guilty plea accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service, which carries out criminal prosecutions in England .

Then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in June 2021 that he and President Biden were “actively engaged” in the case of Dunn.

The Dunn family reached a settlement in a US civil suit against the Sacoolas in 2021. Dunn’s parents had initiated a US federal lawsuit alleging wrongful death. In September 2021, the family’s spokesman, Radd Seiger, told The Washington Post that the civil case was “resolved” and they could move on to the criminal case.

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