Bus driver strikes plea dealFebruary 06,2014By ERIC FRANCIS
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A school bus driver who took a busload of autistic kids on a wild ride down the interstate last fall while sipping whiskey out of a soda bottle has struck a plea deal that will bar him from driving a commercial vehicle for the next two years.
Kent Quillia, 59, of Hartford will spend 30 days on the Corrections Department work crew as part of an otherwise suspended one-to-two year sentence. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of gross negligent operation and reckless endangerment on Wednesday. Quillia will spend two years on probation during which time he will be barred from using his commercial driver’s license.
Quillia was fired on the spot in September after a para-educator called the Butler Bus Company once the bus stopped at Whitcomb High School in Bethel and reported that Quillia had swayed repeatedly over the center line, driven into the rumble strips on the highway four separate times and bent a “one-way” sign while exiting a parking lot.
A private testing technician brought into the company offices to check Quillia recorded a 0.199 percent blood alcohol level, which would be two-and-a-half times the legal limit for driving; however, the decision to use a private test rather than call in law enforcement, played a role in the subsequent decision to dismiss what was originally a drunk driving — first offense — charge against Quillia this week.
“While the facts of this case are quite shocking and represent a gross violation of public trust... the majority of the state’s evidence was probably not going to have been admissible in a court of law,” Windsor County Deputy State’s Attorney Glenn Barnes said to Judge Karen Carroll at the beginning of Wednesday’s court hearing.
Barnes recommended the remaining charges — gross negligent operation and reckless endangerment — to Judge Carroll saying that although Quillia would not technically be convicted of drunk driving as part of the deal.
“He won’t be able to operate a commercial vehicle during the entire time he is on probation, which was a key component for the victim — the bus company — in this incident. They want to make sure, for the public’s sake, that Mr. Quilla was not operating any commercial vehicles any time soon.”
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