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  • Gwinnett County Solicitor General to prosecute stay-at-home violators

    Fox 5 Atlanta

    Brian Hill
    March 31,

    2020

    GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - A warning from the Gwinnett County Solicitor General.  "It can be enforced by us prosecuting them," Solicitor General Brian Whiteside said. "If a police officer chooses to write them a citation then we would investigate that."Penalties for violating stay-at-home order The Gwinnett County Solicitor's Office says residents who violates the county's stay-at-home order will be prosecuted.


    A citation, or possibly arrest, for folks failing to follow the county's stay-at-home order amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    County leaders announced the order Friday but according to Whiteside some folks still felt the need to get out.

    "I had people contact me and say that they have saw people jump fences. I, personally, went outside and saw people that were at least 15, maybe 20 people at a quick trip in Suwanee. They were less than six feet apart," Whiteside.

    As a result of incidents like that, Whitehead says his office will prosecute all individuals who fail to follow the order.

    Along with jail, they could be charged with a misdemeanor and a $1,000 fine, according to a county ordinance.

    "I think the first thing the police are going to do is they are going to verbally try to educate people. If there is a continuous violation of the law for possible danger for the community, they have that discretion whether they want to write a citation or they want to use verbal language," Whiteside said.

    We spoke with attorney Kevin Pratt, of Pratt & Wall Attorneys at Law, about what to do if cited. "They'd report to recorders court, sometime in the near future and be able to defend the face for wherever grounds they have for being out," Pratt explained.  He also explained what he believes would be a violator's final outcome.

    "If someone were to actually be prosecuted for it, they would probably pay a small fine. They probably would not be arrested for it," Pratt said.

    The order does not apply for things like grocery shopping, going to the bank or work,  county leaders say they're targeting those participating in non-essential activities.

  • ‘Every State Should Be Passing a Law to Deal With This’: The Danger of Impaired School Bus Drivers

    The Pew Charitable Trusts

     

     

     

    STATELINE ARTICLE

    January 23, 2020

    By: Jenni Bergal

    "The Etheridge case was one of 118 since 2015 that Stateline identified in which a school bus driver was arrested or cited by police on suspicion of driving a bus impaired by alcohol or drugs. Hundreds of other drivers have failed random testing while on duty."

    Etheridge’s attorney, James Wall, describes her as “a very nice lady” who volunteered at church and never had any problems with the law. At the time of the incident, he said, she was going through a difficult period — a divorce and her father’s death.

    Etheridge admitted she had a couple of beers and shots of tequila the night before to celebrate her birthday, according to a police report. Wall said she and her friends had decided to rent a hotel room that night to avoid driving home.

    “She should have cut off her drinking the night before,” Wall said. “She had to be in the bus around 5:30 the next morning. She was probably sleepy or drowsy, dozing off on the bus, rather than being so impaired that she was all over the road.”

    Etheridge pleaded guilty to driving a school bus under the influence and to child endangerment. She was sentenced in April 2019 to 10 years, one of which was to be served in prison but would be suspended if she completed a residential treatment program. For the remaining nine years, she got probation.

    Wall said Etheridge felt awful about what happened.

    “Every time we went to court, she cried. When she entered her plea, she cried and sobbed,” he said. “She loved her children. She was very remorseful because these were her kids.”

    Etheridge did not respond to a letter seeking comment.

  • Risky Ride: How Impaired School Bus Drivers Endanger Children

    The Pew Charitable Trusts

    STATELINE COLLECTION
    January 22, 2020

    A Stateline special report: Schoolchildren in dozens of states have been put in danger by bus drivers allegedly impaired by drugs or alcohol. Still, most states don’t track these cases or know how many school bus drivers have failed random drug or alcohol tests.

    Part One: School Bus Drivers Put Kids’ Lives at Risk
    Nationwide, more than 1,620 schoolchildren in 38 states have been placed in harm’s way since 2015 by school bus drivers arrested or cited for allegedly driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Despite the dangers, the situation goes largely untracked by government officials, a Stateline analysis has found.

    Police have caught at least 118 drivers operating a school bus while allegedly impaired, and more than a third of the cases involved crashes. Nearly three dozen students have been injured, some seriously. About a third of the cases involved drugs. And many additional impaired school bus drivers have been identified through random drug and alcohol screenings.

    Part Two: ‘Every State Should Be Passing A Law to Deal With This’
    Parents in Georgia are still outraged that an impaired bus driver carrying their children hadn’t been stopped before she started her route that morning, despite showing up to work with alcohol in her system. Police pulled over the bus after a parent received a panicked text from a child. “My son could have been dead,” one parent told Stateline. “What if she went around the S-curve and the bus had flipped?”

    Government officials and transportation safety advocates have considered a variety of strategies to tackle the issue of impaired school bus drivers. Among them: mandating visual check-ins to make sure school bus drivers don’t show signs of impairment, putting ignition locks on school buses, beefing up random testing and analyzing data about impaired school bus drivers.

  • School bus drivers impaired by drugs, alcohol risk lives of hundreds of kids

    USA Today

    January 10, 2020

    Jenni Bergal

    Stateline Article

    DAYTON, Tenn. – Trista Freeman climbed onto school bus #41 on a chilly morning in November 2018 and knew immediately something was wrong: When the driver greeted her, she said, she smelled alcohol on his breath.

    Minutes later, the bus began swerving across lanes and blowing through red lights. Trista was panic-stricken as the bus, carrying her and 26 other high school students, nearly hit a car.

    “Everyone on the bus was freaking out, yelling for him to stop,” Trista, 16, recalled. “I was really scared.”

    Trista, her older brother, Cody, and some of the other kids on board frantically called or texted their parents, alerting them to the frightening ride in this small manufacturing town about 40 miles northeast of Chattanooga.

    “There was so much chaos on the bus. All I know is I wanted off,” said Rose Reynolds, who was then 16. She phoned her mother, and her father, a volunteer firefighter, contacted police.

    Other parents flooded the school transportation department and 911 with calls.

    School bus driver Michael Ledbetter had more than two dozen students on board when he was stopped and arrested for allegedly driving under the influence in Dayton, Tenn., in November 2018.
     

    A supervisor radioed the bus driver, Michael Ledbetter, and told him to pull over to the side of the highway. Police arrived and gave him field sobriety tests, which he failed. A blood test later revealed he had a .127 blood-alcohol level – more than three times the legal limit for commercial drivers.

  • Judge sentences ex-Gwinnett teacher to 90 days for sexual relationship with student

    Gwinnett Daily Post

    July 14, 2017

    By: Keith Farner

    A former South Gwinnett High School teacher was sentenced to 90 days in prison on Friday following charges related to an inappropriate relationship last year with a student.

    Therese Gunn, 54, of Grayson, who resigned and turned herself in to Gwinnett police in May 2016, after a guilty plea was sentenced by Judge Warren Davis despite her attorney’s request for house arrest. Gunn’s attorney, Jim Wall, said he respected the way Davis handled the case and paid close attention to the evidence and the testimony.

    “These cases are very tough for everyone involved,” Wall wrote in an email to the Daily Post. “I really cannot take any issue at all with his decision. I have a lot of respect for the judge and I think his decision is probably spot on as to what should have happened, even though I was asking for something else.”

    In May 2016, Gunn was was arrested on charges of sexual assault and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor after an alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old male student.

    Gunn resigned from South Gwinnett on April 19, 2016, and a sexual assault police report was filed the next day with Gwinnett County police. Gwinnett police previously said the relationship began sometime in March 2016 and ended in less than two months. The report said that some of the sexual activity occurred at the school, at the teacher’s residence and at Lenora Park.

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