A drunken American university student accused of causing a taxi crash and the death of its driver in Hong Kong had his murder charged reduced to manslaughter, his lawyer said on Saturday.
The murder charge against California State University, Chico student Kelsey Michael Mudd was reduced to manslaughter in a brief court hearing on Friday, lawyer Ian Polson told The Associated Press.
It was unclear why the charge was reduced. No one from the Hong Kong Judiciary could be reached for comment on Saturday. If convicted, Mudd, who holds American and Australian passports, faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Prosecutors said earlier that Mudd was more than three times over the legal alcohol limit on June 27 when the crash occurred.
But Polson argued the alcohol test results were irrelevant because there was no evidence that Mudd was driving.
The 22-year-old was also granted bail on Friday, Polson said. He was not required to enter a plea, and the case was adjourned until September 23.
Police said the taxi Mudd was travelling in jumped a road divider and collided with three oncoming cabs. The driver died in a hospital hours later.
Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post reported that Mudd was arguing with the driver before the crash. Local TV news footage of the scene, which has been uploaded to YouTube, showed Mudd sitting in the front passenger's seat of the taxi and then moving to the driver's seat as a paramedic tried to treat him.
He then sped off in the taxi, heading in the wrong direction, and hit another cab head-on. He appeared unsteady when he was ordered out of the taxi by police.