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Former bus driver allegedly drove drunk, arraigned on 10 counts
Wayne County, N.Y. - A former Wayne County school bus driver faces new criminal charges that include DWI and vehicular assault. The Wayne County District Attorney tells 13WHAM News that school district officials who had contact with the bus driver in between two alleged criminal events will not face any criminal charges.
Julynn Criscuolo, 45, was arraigned in Wayne County Court Monday morning on ten criminal charges; aggravated DWI felony, two counts of DWI felony, aggravated vehicular assault, vehicular assault 1st and 2nd degrees, aggravated DWI misdemeanor, DWI misdemeanor, reckless driving, consumption or possession of alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle. The most serious charge, Aggravated Vehicular Assault, carries a maximum possible prison sentence of five to fifteen years.
Criscuolo pled not guilty in court and refused to comment when asked questions by 13WHAM News as she left the New York State Police barracks in Lyons. Criscuolo was released after her Monday arraignment on $10,000 bail which she had already posted.
October 30, 2013
Police first came into contact with Criscuolo around 6:30 p.m. on October 30, 2013 when she was involved in a serious head-on crash on Route 350 in the Town of Macedon. The driver of the other car, 64 year-old Candace Aldrich of Farmington, suffered very serious injuries.
Police claim Criscuolo was driving while intoxicated during that crash and had an open bottle of wine in her vehicle at the time. Police initially stated prescription drugs were a suspected factor in the crash as well.
But that crash happened just hours after her supervisors at Wayne Central School District suspected her of driving a school bus under the influence. 13WHAM News partner The Times of Wayne County was first to report that district employees took Criscuolo to a BOCES contracted private drug testing site in Canandaigua and sources stated her Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) was .172% at the time.
"We've alleged in the indictment that her blood alcohol was in excess of .18% which as you know is very high and very dangerous, said Wayne County District Attorney Richard Healy of the criminal charges unsealed on Monday.
Following that test law enforcement officials claim that district leaders made arrangements to drive Criscuolo and her private vehicle home. The same vehicle that was involved in that Route 350 crash a short time later.
School District Actions
The Wayne County District Attorney said the districts involvement with Criscuolo prior to the crash on Route 350 impacted the criminal investigation.
"We were put behind by not having law enforcement contacted, we had to go through the school's testing procedures which made it more difficult for us, said D.A. Healy. I've never had to prosecute a case for drunk driving that didn't go through law enforcement. This was handled strictly by the school, as you've reported, and when that happens you know you have private laboratories that do the testing you have civilians, the protocol and the procedures are different. I will say they are not as rigid or tight as they are by law enforcement as tested in court so it does make it more difficult for us.
As part of the subsequent investigation New York State Police and the D.A.s Office did obtain an indictment charging Criscuolo with three crimes for alleged acts while driving the school bus and seven crimes related to the crash on Route 350 in Macedon.
Following this incident the Wayne Central School District enacted new rules and procedures. During a phone conversation and email exchange School Superintendent Renee Garrett stated the following:
Our investigation is complete and as with any event of significance, we have reviewed the transportation department employee policies and procedures. Future incidents will be handled in accordance with our updated policy which includes immediately contacting law enforcement if a properly trained supervisor has reasonable suspicion that a safety-sensitive employee is under the influence of alcohol and/or illegal drugs. If the employee is taken into custody by law enforcement, the supervisor will immediately refer the employee for drug and alcohol testing. In addition, if the employee has their own vehicle on school property the supervisor will contact the police for a determination about the disposal of the vehicle, e.g., whether it will be confiscated, otherwise impounded, etc.
"I give them (the school district) credit for doing that and also for including us in their decision to do that, I thought that was helpful and proper on their part, said D.A. Healy. Hopefully something like this won't happen again, when you have a situation where a school bus driver with children or students and you're intoxicated you have to call the police there really shouldn't be any doubt about that.
Superintendent Garrett also told 13WHAM News that the district began civil service proceedings to dismiss Criscuolo from her job. On Monday, November 4, Criscuolo submitted her irrevocable letter of resignation according to Garrett.
The Victim & Lawsuit
An attorney for Candace Aldrich tells 13WHAM News that his client spent a very long time in the hospital before returning home. She is still undergoing therapy and has yet to fully regain her ability to walk.
Aldrich, through her lawyer Charles Schiano, has filed a Notice of Claim against Wayne County and the Wayne Central School District. The beginning stages of a lawsuit will be discussed during a March court appearance.
Superintendent Garrett told 13WHAM News that the district would not comment based on threatened litigation.