LONDON — The United States has rejected Britain’s request for the extradition of an American woman who fled the country after she was involved in an accident in which a teenager died last year. The State Department called the request “highly inappropriate,” deepening the diplomatic stalemate over the case.
The woman, Anne Sacoolas, who is the wife of a former U.S. diplomat, was charged with causing death by dangerous driving in December after the Northamptonshire Police suspected her of traveling on the wrong side of the road.
Authorities said she was behind the wheel when her car collided with the motorcycle ridden by Harry Dunn, 19, in August in Brackley, a town that is about 60 miles northwest of London and close to a Royal Air Force base that hosts a U.S. Air Force communication station.
As police sought to question Sacoolas, who was 42 at the time, she claimed immunity and fled the country, spurring a diplomatic tug-of-war between Britain and the United States and enraging Dunn’s relatives. A campaign by her parents seeking her return to Britain has led them all the way to the White House.
British authorities began extradition proceedings in December, soon after the Crown Prosecution Service authorized police to charge Sacoolas. The request from Britain for the United States to send her back to face charges was announced by the Home Office on Friday.
In an email Saturday, the State Department called it “highly inappropriate” because of Sacoolas’ diplomatic status at the time of the crash as the wife of a U.S. diplomat.
The State Department said that it would continue looking for “options moving forward” but that an extradition request for “an individual under these circumstances would be an abuse.”
Dunn’s family welcomed the British government’s request for Sacoolas’ extradition, however, calling it an “important development,” Radd Seiger, their spokesman, said in an email Sunday.
“Despite the unwelcome public comments currently emanating from the U.S. administration that Anne Sacoolas will never be returned, Harry’s parents, as victims, will simply look forward to the legal process unfolding, as it must now do, confident in the knowledge that the rule of law will be upheld,” Seiger said.
He added that “no one, whether diplomat or otherwise, is above the law.”
Seiger, who was in the United States as part of the family’s Justice for Harry campaign, said the family was used “to treating anything that the Trump administration says publicly with a pinch of salt.”
In October, President Donald Trump stunned Dunn’s parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, when he invited them to the Oval Office for a meeting. Fifteen minutes into their meeting, he told them that Sacoolas was waiting in a room nearby and wanted to meet with them, they said. They declined.
Trump has described the crash as “a terrible accident” but suggested that it would be difficult for Americans driving on the opposite side of the road in Britain.
“You know, those are the opposite roads; that happens,” he said. “I won’t say it ever happened to me, but it did. When you get used to driving on our system, and then you’re all of a sudden on the other system when you’re driving, it happens.”