Today in Rochester, New York, a plea deal was announced for a former school bus driver who admitted driving a bus full of students with a blood alcohol level of 0.09 — more than twice the legal limit for a CDL holder. Another case in Lyons, also located in Upstate New York, ended with the former bus driver receiving “interim probation” in exchange for pleading guilty to felony DWI.
In Rochester, Amini Kellum pleaded guilty to a felony charge of aggravated DWI with a child passenger, according to local reports. She had been facing 12 counts of DWI. As part of the plea deal, Kellum will serve five years probation and have an interlock device installed on her vehicle for five years. Her license is suspended for at least a year and she is not eligible to ever regain a commercial drivers license. She was arrested last August after being caught on camera at a gas station crashing into a railing.
In court, she admitted to drinking the night before the accident. The following morning she drove a school bus drunk with 16 children on board.
"Obviously, this is not a mistake — this is a crime. It's very serious, but this is someone that has led almost 40 years of a law-abiding life and therefore, it is our feeling she can, if she gets the issues she needs for her substance abuse, return to that law-abiding life and be a productive citizen," said prosecutor Karin Intermill.
A similar case involving a Lyon bus driver also had a similar outcome July 22, when a judge placed Julynn Criscuolo on interim probation for one year after her guilty plea to aggravated vehicular assault, a class C felony, and a felony count of DWI. The latter charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Like Kellum, she was arrested following an accident, but she was in her personal vehicle at the time and seriously injured a 60-year-old woman in the Oct. 30 incident.
Earlier that day Criscuolo, 46, of Sudus, drove a Wayne Central School District bus with 20 middle and high school students while drunk. Bus garage employees and a fellow driver noticed her acting strangely before her afternoon run, but she was already transporting the kids by the time they acted. When she returned to school before her next run, the transportation department had a substitute driver take over.
Per district policy, a school employee took Criscuolo for alcohol and drug testing, and then dropped her off at her residence. Criscuolo later got behind the wheel of her own car and caused the accident that led to her arrest. The district attorney’s office said she took two breath tests that showed her blood alcohol content was at least 0.18 percent, twice the legal limit.
When Criscuolo pleaded guilty to three charges in June, Judge Kehoe said he would consider a prison sentence of up to 4.5 years. But in court on July 22, he noted that if she doesn't "mess up" for year, she will probably avoid any time behind bars.
Since this much-publicized case, the Wayne Central School Distric has pledged to change its policy when a district employee is suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The proposed policy states that the supervisor will immediately remove the employee from all safety-sensitive functions — including but not limited to driving — and contact the director of transportation, school superintendent, human resources director and assistant superintendent for business as well as the police.