A former American military contractor pleaded guilty today to involuntary manslaughter for fatally striking an active duty U.S. Air Force medical doctor with a forklift as she was walking on Al Dhafra Airbase in the United Arab Emirates.
According to court documents, on Nov. 27, 2020, Ari Taylor, 32, of Roxboro, North Carolina, was operating a forklift to deliver pallets of water on Al Dhafra Airbase in his role as a civilian employed by a U.S. military contractor. He drove the forklift through a space shared by vehicles and pedestrians, between a medical clinic and living quarters. Taylor acknowledged that pedestrians were frequently present in this area.
At the time of the fatal collision, Taylor was distracted while using his cell phone and never saw Captain Kelliann Leli. A crash reconstruction expert concluded that Taylor had almost nine seconds to prevent the crash, but Taylor admitted that he did not see Capt. Leli and failed to take any steps to avoid striking her with the forklift.
Taylor pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 25, 2023. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Sandra J. Hairston for the Middle District of North Carolina, and Brigadier General Terry L. Bullard of the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations made the announcement.
The U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations conducted the investigation with assistance from the FBI.
Senior Trial Attorney Frank G. Rangoussis and Trial Attorney Elizabeth Nielsen of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Terry Meinecke for the Middle District of North Carolina are prosecuting the case.