Last August, neurosurgeon Jonathan Nakhla was charged with manslaughter in the death of Samantha Thomas, a third-year medical student at the University of South Alabama. In a hearing on Monday, a motion to allow Nakhla to travel outside the state of Alabama for a family vacation later this month was denied.
Thomas was a passenger in Nakhla’s Audi R8 Spyder, a high-performance convertible, which investigators say was traveling at 138 miles per hour on the Interstate 65 Service Road around 12:41 a.m. on Aug. 1, 2020, when Nakhla swerved to miss another vehicle and crashed.
Nakhla’s vehicle ran off the road, colliding with a concrete ditch that divided the service road from I-65. The vehicle then “struck the guardrail, rolling six times along the guardrail, striking a light pole and landing upside down and continuing from there before coming to an uncontrolled stop in a ditch,” per court documents from a lawsuit filed by Thomas’s family.
Nakhla was intoxicated at the time of the accident, having consumed multiple alcoholic beverages earlier in the night, according to court documents. Thomas succumbed to fatal injuries as a result of the accident. She was 24 years old.
Nakhla was released on a $200,000 bond, but his employment with Mobile Infirmary was terminated shortly after his arrest, per medical staff bylaws set by the hospital system.
The conditions of his bond prevent him from leaving the state. The denied motion would have given Nakhla permission to travel to Myrtle Beach, S.C., where he would stay at a timeshare with his in-laws and would not operate a motor vehicle. Nakhla’s attorney, Dennis Knizley, said Nakhla and his family have gone on this trip for the past eight years.
Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Wright said Monday the state has already been flexible with Nakhla’s travel restrictions, previously allowing an exception for religious reasons, as the closest house of worship for Nakhla’s religion is located in Pensacola.
“The defense has not shown the court good cause for this court to allow him to leave the state,” Wright wrote in a motion to oppose Nakhla’s travel request.
The motion was denied by District Judge George Hardesty Jr.
According to testimony from a traffic homicide investigator last September, a surveillance video showed Nakhla and Thomas drinking by a pool in an apartment complex where they both lived. The video showed the two leaving the apartment complex at 12:36 a.m.
Nakhla told the investigator they were going to get ice cream from a fast-food restaurant. The crash occurred just five minutes later.
According to a press release from Joe King, the attorney for the Thomas family in their lawsuit against Nakhla, Thomas graduated from Guntersville High School as valedictorian, graduated with honors from the University of Alabama and was awarded a scholarship to attend medical school at the University of South Alabama. She was the first in her family to attend medical school.
“It is her family’s hope and desire that Dr. Jonathan Nakhla will accept responsibility for his actions that caused the death of Samantha. The family is confident that, regardless of any efforts to avoid responsibility, the justice system will hold Nakhla accountable,” King wrote in the press release.
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