Attorney's death delays plea for driver in Washington Co. school bus crash that injured 39 students

Becky Campbell • Jul 9, 2013 at 7:08 AM

A former Washington county school bus driver who wrecked last year and injured dozens of students was set to plead guilty to charges related to the incident Monday, but couldn't because her attorney died.

Brenda Gray is charged with with eight counts of reckless aggravated assault, 31 counts of felony reckless endangerment, speeding, reckless driving and failure to exercise due care. There is an assault or endangerment charge for each of the 39 students on the bus.

Her attorney, Michael LaGuardia, died July 1, apparently of a heart attack.

Assistant District Attorney General Erin McArdle told Judge Robert Cupp that she and LaGuardia had worked out a plea in the case and filed with the court a document detailing several stipulations they agreed upon.

Cupp said he received that document after LaGuardia's death and didn't want to sign off on it with Gray no longer having representation. Cupp told Gray she could hire another lawyer to stand in for LaGuardia but allowed her to file an affidavit of indigency. That is a document to show that a defendant cannot afford to hire their own attorney.

The case is now set on July 29.

The bus crash happened Sept. 20 on Mount Wesley Road as the driver was starting her after-school route from David Crockett High School.

Gray ran off the road and the bus overturned, injuring all 39 students on board. Tennessee Highway Patrol traffic investigators determined Gray was speeding and at fault for the crash.

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