November 14, 2000

Stranger Pleads Guilty to Felony

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Timothy Stranger, the former TCAT bus driver who struck and killed a Cornell junior in March, pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide, a class E felony, in Tompkins County Court yesterday.

Stranger also pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors: driving while abilities were impaired by drugs and operating a commercial motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

In his plea, Stranger admitted to consuming a six-pack of beer and smoking marijuana before beginning his shift that afternoon. He also acknowledged that he was intoxicated at the time of the accident.

Stranger’s bus struck Michelle Evans, 21, on March 16 while she was crossing the street at the corner of Wait and Thurston Avenues. According to passengers riding the bus at the time of the accident, the bus was filled beyond capacity, partially obstructing Stranger’s view of the intersection.

According to TCAT General Manager Rod Ghearing, TCAT terminated Stranger after tests indicated that he was driving under the influence of alcohol during the shift.

Ghearing had no comment on the details of yesterday’s plea, due to “pending civil action.”

The Tompkins County District Attorney originally had charged Stranger with five counts: operating a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol content between .04 and .07 percent, operating a commercial vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, operating a bus with passengers forward of the standing line, failing to use due care to a pedestrian and operating a bus within six hours of consuming an intoxicating liquor or drug.

Stranger is currently free on his own recognizance. His next court appearance will be his sentencing, set for Jan. 3. The maximum sentence he can receive is 16 months to four years, but jail time is not mandatory for any of the crimes to which he pleaded guilty.

“The prosecution indicated at the plea that it will recommend a sentence of one year local incarceration,” according to the District Attorney’s office.

The University, a partial owner of TCAT, had no comment on Stranger’s decision to plead guilty.

Archived article by Maggie Frank