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Man involved in UNC sports reporter's death pleads guilty to third DWI

Posted September 29, 2014

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— A Cary man who was a passenger in an SUV that killed a Chapel Hill sports reporter more than a decade ago pleaded guilty Monday to a DWI charge – his third such conviction since the fatal wreck.

Rabah Samara, 37, was sentenced to 14 days in jail in connection with a Dec. 20, 2013, Cary police DWI checkpoint in which he registered a blood alcohol concentration of .10.

District Judge Jackie Brewer also handed down a suspended 12-month prison sentence and 36 months of supervised probation and ordered Samara to pay a $1000 fine and court costs.

Defense attorney Duncan McMillan told Brewer that his client hasn't had anything to drink since December and that, in recent months, he started alcohol counseling.

Citing two other DWI convictions, however, Wake County Assistant District Attorney Rashad Hauter told Brewer that Samara was "a danger to the community."

On Oct. 24, 2003, he was a passenger in a Cadillac Escalade that hit and killed Stephen Gates, a 27-year-old reporter for the Tar Heel Sports Network, who had pulled off Interstate 40 to fix a flat tire.

The Escalade's 20-year-old driver pulled over, hysterical, and Samara, who had been sleeping, switched seats with her and continued driving.

Later that same night, he was pulled over in Wake County and cited for driving while impaired – a charge he was convicted of in 2004.

"The fact that DWI is linked to the tragic incident of a loss of somebody's life, I submit that for your honor to take into consideration," Hauter said.

McMillan, however, told Brewer that his client "was made a scapegoat" in Gates' death – a jury acquitted Samara of a hit-and-run charge – and that he had no control of the situation.

Samara was charged with driving while impaired two other times – once in 2006 that was dismissed and then again on St. Patrick's Day last year. In that case, he received 36 months' probation.

Gates' mother, Pat Gates, attended Monday's hearing and has been in court each time Samara's been.

Her motive, she has said, isn't for revenge but to serve as a reminder for Samara, who she says promised her more than a decade ago that he would make his life worthwhile.

After Monday's plea and McMillan's "scapegoat," comment, she was moved to tears.

"I'm tired of him saying – although he only said it once – 'I'm sorry for your loss,'" she said. "I want (him) to be sorry for what (he) did."

"Maybe he will get his life together. Maybe he will," she added. "Maybe this is the last time I ever have to come down here. Maybe. I hope."

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  • emd7226 Sep 30, 2014

    I don't know where Caveness is today, but I'm willing to bet she isn't in the headlines because she did not continue to drink and drive. Just a guess. The bottom line is that Samara was absolutely involved in the death of another human being with the weapon being his vehicle. He was present when it occurred, asleep or not, he drove the vehicle away after it killed a person. He knows what happened. Yet he continues to drink and drive. Anyone with a conscience would never ever drink and drive again after knowing they were involved in the death of a person because of drunk driving. It is his habitual disprespect for human life that is the issue here. Glad he's seeing the inside of a cell, but it's not long enough.

  • Ven Sep 30, 2014

    he's wrong for his actions, but the crux of the complaint should focus on him but Caveness - SHE killed him and was probably DUI at the time, but she's gotten off with everything (other than her always knowing she was wrong and skirted justice, can't feel good). Get him the help he needs, and Pat Gates needs to refocus her concerns.

  • justiceforall Sep 30, 2014

    Every judge/prosecutor that lets a DWI get off easy more than once, should be held just as accountable when a fatality happens.

  • Sean Creasy Sep 30, 2014
    user avatar

    Okay... I guess my last comment was too abrasive so here's the watered down version... I feel that whom ever the judge, lawyer, and DA were in his previous case, they, along with the DMV employee who approved him, should face mandatory jail time for enabling this person to continue to drive. He should at the very least be banned from ever being able to drive ever again in not just NC, but the entire US... At 37 yrs. old he knows right from wrong......

  • Lightfoot3 Sep 30, 2014

    ""The fact that DWI is linked to the tragic incident of a loss of somebody's life, I submit that for your honor to take into consideration," Hauter said." - article


    So, he was only a passenger, and was found NOT GUILTY of the hit and run, but the DA tries to use this in court? Extremely unethical, but expected, of the DA.


    ""I'm tired of him saying – although he only said it once – 'I'm sorry for your loss,'" she said. "I want (him) to be sorry for what (he) did."" - article


    Why doesn't the mom hound the actual driver that hit her son instead of one of the passengers? And what about the other passengers? They get a free pass?


    And have you notice that these articles never name the driver?

  • Lightfoot3 Sep 30, 2014

    "I feel that if he has already killed someone while driving drunk" - torchhappysean


    He hasn't. He was a passenger in a car that hit someone.


    "I always wonder what happened to Emily Caveness, the woman who actually killed Gates." - officebox


    Me too. Why isn't the focus on her? This dude definitely has drinking and driving problems, but that's unrelated to the dude Caveness ran over.

  • Sean Creasy Sep 30, 2014
    user avatar

    I also can't help but wonder who the tard is that keeps giving his license back to him!! That is tantamount to throwing the fox back in the chicken coop after it's eaten a few chickens.....

  • bobbyj Sep 30, 2014

    Until the law is changed this will continue to happen. Remember folks all the judge lawyers and people in the court have all done this all least once in the their lives. I could say I have done it too. Not in the last 25 years but I have done it and people feel sorry for them. THAT being said dude needs to do some real jail time and never have a license ever again.

  • Sean Creasy Sep 30, 2014
    user avatar

    District Judge Jackie Brewer also handed down a suspended 12-month prison sentence and 36 months of supervised probation and ordered Samara to pay a $1000 fine and court costs.
    Read more at http://www.wral.com/man-involved-in-unc-sports-reporter-s-death-pleads-guilty-to-third-dwi/14027538/#JO4fXIA8uti5bpWP.99.......... This should have been his sentence the second time around!!! I feel that if he has already killed someone while driving drunk and has continued to drive drunk anyway then he should be spending time in prison for his THIRD time, not just a suspended sentence!!!

  • luvbailey Sep 30, 2014

    14 days????? It ought to be 14 years!!!!

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