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Decorated Marine charged in Tampa DUI manslaughter case

TAMPA — A Marine Corps captain decorated with three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star was charged with DUI manslaughter Tuesday, more than three months after a fatal head-on crash on Interstate 275.

Authorities say Capt. Scott Patrick Sciple, 37, was intoxicated the morning of April 25, when he drove a 2010 Chevy Impala the wrong way on the interstate near Bearss Avenue and collided with a southbound Malibu.

Court records put his blood alcohol level at 0.255, about three times the limit at which the state presumes impairment.

The crash occurred just before 4 a.m. The other driver, 48-year-old Pedro Rivera, was pronounced dead several hours later at St. Joseph's Hospital, said Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Larry Kraus.

"This is a horribly tragic case for everyone involved," said Sciple's attorney, John Fitzgibbons.

Sciple had served four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and was back in the United States recuperating from injuries before returning for a fifth tour, Fitzgibbons said Tuesday. He would not elaborate on Sciple's war injuries.

"We are presently examining some very compelling circumstances, which may involve legal and medical matters, but I'm not going to discuss those at the present time," Fitzgibbons said.

Sciple was hurt in the crash, the Highway Patrol reported, and so was Rivera's wife, Carmen Rodriguez Rivera, 51. Both were hospitalized in serious condition, Kraus said.

The Marine was not charged before Tuesday because the agency was awaiting toxicology test results, Kraus said.

"It's standard," he said. "We don't always immediately go arrest someone."

In addition to DUI manslaughter, Sciple was charged with driving under the influence with property damage or personal injury in connection with Rodriguez Rivera's injuries.

He was released from jail Tuesday afternoon on $25,500 bail.

Sciple, stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, joined the Marines in 2001.

A spokeswoman for the Marine Corps Forces Central Command confirmed his military honors. Purple Hearts are awarded to military personnel who are injured or killed in the line of duty. Bronze Stars are bestowed upon those who display bravery or other acts of merit.

Before the crash, Sciple worked in the Marine Corps Operations Center. There, he processed information from other headquarters and used it to provide guidance to deployed forces, said Gunnery Sgt. Kimberly Leone.

After military officials learned of the accident, Sciple was moved to an administrative role, she said. He now handles paperwork in the office management section, Leone said.

She said the move was not a punishment, and it had nothing to do with physical injuries.

"It's easier for us to let him deal with activities related to the accident and investigation when he's in an administrative capacity," Leone said. "It's pretty common whenever a Marine is involved in legal proceedings."

She said the military will stand back while the civilian legal proceedings and investigation continue.

After the case is closed, military officials could take action — but that's decided on a case-by-case basis, Leone said.

Times news researcher Natalie Watson and staff writer Jared Leone contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Decorated Marine charged in Tampa DUI manslaughter case 08/10/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 9:25pm]
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