Local News

Story published: 04-30-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

State opposed to judicial diversion in bus crash case, possible plea agreement in works

By Karen Sells
Assistant Editor

Decision on how $700,000 in insurance money will be divided among claimants not likely until at least late summer -

During the April 26 hearing for Brenda Gray regarding charges from the September 2012 bus crash in which she was the driver, attorney Michael LaGuardia requested additional time to discuss a plea offer from the state with his client.

Criminal Court Judge Robert Cupp granted LaGuardia’s request and rescheduled Gray’s hearing for Monday, July 8.

More than 20 David Crockett High School students were sent to the hospital with injuries when Gray lost control of the school bus she was driving and crashed in Telford. All 39 students on board at the time were injured to differing degrees, officials have said.

Gray faces 39 counts of reckless aggravated assault. Authorities claim Gray was speeding and is at fault for the crash.

She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Assistant District Attorney Erin McArdle said the state is opposed to judicial diversion, which would allow the accident to be removed from Gray’s driving record after she completes her sentence.

“We are also asking for a sentencing hearing on how the sentence would be served,” McArdle said, adding jail time in some form or fashion will be requested. “We think it’s warranted based on the number of students injured, and that she should be held accountable.”

McArdle declined to discuss the details of the possible plea agreement, but said she hopes the July 8 hearing will address both the plea and form of sentencing.

J. Eddie Lauderback, who was appointed master by Circuit Court Judge Thomas J. Seeley Jr. in February to make a recommendation for the disbursement of the $700,000 insurance payment from Tennessee Risk Management Trust, the carrier for the Washington County Board of Education.

“We are in a holding pattern right now until I have all of the information to begin evaluating the claims,” he said during an interview last week.

Lauderback does not expect any decisions to be made before the end of summer, and whether students are still being treated for injuries at that time could impact his report.

“It will be the latter part of the summer before we get down to the nitty gritty of dividing up the money,” he said.