A man accused of driving a school bus into a ditch in Fairfax County while under the influence pleaded no contest Thursday to three misdemeanors, while prosecutors dropped all nine felonies against him.
A grand jury indicted Troy Reynolds on 12 charges after police said he crashed a school bus with 44 kindergarteners in October.
Critics accuse the Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney’s Office of botching the case. They say Reynolds could have faced almost 50 years in prison, but now he may soon be a free man.
Reynolds' defense attorney told the judge Reynolds was drinking for his birthday the night before he drove the bus off the road. He was over the legal alcohol limit with a 0.2 blood alcohol content.
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Nine kids were treated for minor injuries. Each of those kids led to a felony child endangerment charge against Reynolds.
But earlier this month, Reynolds’ defense attorney submitted a motion to dismiss all of the charges, claiming prosecutors "violated Mr. Reynolds’ rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth amendments, as well as the discovery order." The motion says Reynolds originally faced a "potential sentence of 47-and-a-half years."
Shortly after the motion was submitted, prosecutors offered Reynolds a plea deal, dismissing all nine felonies and asking the judge to sentence him to about 240 days on the three misdemeanors, the defense attorney said.
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Ed Nuttall, who is running against Commonwealth's Attorney Steve Descano, says Descano's poor management is ultimately why Reynolds' felonies were dropped.
"I can only imagine the outrage these families have," he said.
The prosecutor in court Thursday was the third prosecutor assigned to the case since January. She told the judge she just was assigned the case Feb. 27 and said she made "reasonable efforts ... to notify parents" but was only able to contact some of them.
“And now these parents, it sounds like, don't have any idea, may not have any idea, what's even happened in this case," Nuttall said.
A spokesperson for Descano released a statement to News4, saying, in part, the outcome "reflects the wishes of the vast majority of the families of the children who were injured in the incident."
The judge did not sentence Reynolds but approved a motion for bond. He's not allowed to drive in Virginia, but he has a Maryland license and there isn't an automatic notification process from Virginia's DMV to Maryland's.
If the judge accepts the prosecutor's proposed sentence, Reynolds will get credit for time already served and won't spend another day in jail.
The judge also could choose to sentence him to more than 240 days. Reynolds is expected to be sentenced in early July.