Friday, December 7, 2012

Bus driver accused of 'drowsy driving' acquitted

The driver of a tour bus that crashed and killed 15 passengers in the Bronx last year was acquitted by a jury of all the counts related to the riders’ deaths and injuries, reported the Wall Street Journal. 

Ophadell Williams, bowed his head, wiped tears from his eyes and placed a hand over his heart, mouthing the words “thank you” to jurors whose foreperson answered “not guilty” 53 times when asked for their verdict on manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and three different types of assault charges against him. He faced up to 15 years for the most serious of the counts.

The lone “guilty” voiced by the jury was for aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. That charge carries a maximum 30 day jail sentence. The Bronx judge immediately sentenced Williams, who had been imprisoned for 15 months awaiting trial, to time served. As Williams ducked into a waiting car outside the courthouse, reporters asked him if he had anything to say and he answered, “thank you,” reported the WSJ

Williams was accused of "drowsy driving" impairment similar to drunk driving or distracted driving. On March 12, 2011, Williams was driving a World Wide Tour bus returning to Manhattan’s Chinatown from an overnight gambling trip to the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut when the bus carrying 32 passengers slammed into a guardrail on Interstate 95 near just over the Bronx border.

Williams was indicted on September 1, 2011, by Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson. Shortly after the crash, the lead prosecutor in the case, Gary Weil, said in court that Mr. Williams exhibited “classic symptoms of sleep deprivation,” which included “driving recklessly, speeding, weaving in and out of lanes.”

At trial, Williams’ attorney, Patrick Bruno, said the accident was caused by a tractor trailer cutting off Williams’ bus, according to the WSJ.

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