by Irvin Muchnick
We have a little more information on the tantalizing involuntary manslaughter count in the murder case against Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka in the 1983 death of Nancy Argentino outside Allentown, Pennsylvania. Our information clarifies the legitimacy of the count but does not dispel the notion that it is divorced from the burden of the case and could prove to be the “poison pill” of a plea deal — which in turn might fail to satisfy either the Argentino family or the public.
For background, see my piece earlier this month at the Wrestling Observer website. The article was reprinted here at https://concussioninc.net/?p=10438.
First: The two-year statute of limitations for involuntary manslaughter can, indeed, be “tolled” (suspended). The most obvious mechanism for this is Pennsylvania Code § 5554, which states in part that “the period of limitation does not run during any time when … the accused is continuously absent from this Commonwealth or has no reasonably ascertainable place of abode or work within this Commonwealth.” Though Snuka has spent stretches in Pennsylvania since 1983 — most notably during his time with the old Philadelphia-based ECW promotion — he likely has never been a resident, or at least a resident for a long enough period to preclude tolling.
Another important question is whether a guilty plea to the involutary manslaughter charge (as opposed to the more serious third degree murder charge) also could result in prison time. There are differing views on whether a 72-year-old with stomach cancer should be so sentenced. (I am leaving out the suggestion of the Snuka camp, which I find dubious, that he also might be suffering from dementia.) Recent cases in Pennsylvania indicate a sentencing range from as little as 11 months to as much as five years.
Of course, the main problem with an involuntary manslaughter conviction, while dropping the third degree homicide charge, is one of enduring narrative. For Snuka, involuntary manslaughter does not address the central story of the Nancy Argentino incident. A guilty plea would acknowledge negligence on the wrestler’s part in not seeking medical attention for his girlfriend in a more timely manner — but it would not close the books of history on whether she had endured a life-taking injury at his hands in the first place.
The advantage of the current ongoing media attention, especially at the national level, is that it makes it harder for James Martin, the Lehigh County district attorney, to pull off a plea deal in service of what we might label a “fast and dirty” resolution of the Snuka case. Such a move might be “efficient,” but it is a lot less plausible in 2015 than it would have been many years ago.