FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — A lawyer representing a man accused of driving drunk while behind the wheel of a full school bus last year wants charges against his client dismissed. Troy Reynolds, 48, was arrested in October of 2022.
Reynolds was accused of being drunk while driving a bus with 44 kindergartners on board from Ben Murch Elementary School in D.C. The children were returning from a field trip to Cox Farms when Reynolds drove the bus off the road and into a ditch. In December, he was indicted on nine felony charges of child endangerment and three misdemeanor charges, which include second offense of driving while intoxicated, driving with a disqualified commercial license, and driving a bus without a commercial driver’s license.
Now, Reynolds' lawyer, Amy M. Jordan, has filed a motion in Fairfax County court asking that the charges be dismissed. The motion argues Reynolds is not getting a speedy trial because of deadlines missed by the prosecution.
The motion breaks down the timeline of the case. According to that timeline, the case was scheduled to go to jury on March 21, 2023, and was "specifically set within speedy trial limits."
The motion says the prosecution was meant to submit all discovery material for the case by Feb. 4, 2023, but prosecutors submitted 11 new photos as well as a witness list on March 6.
Reynolds' lawyer argues in the motion that the missed deadline including certified copies of prior convictions means Reynolds' constitutional rights were violated, and as a result, the case should be dismissed.
"While some discovery was provided by February 4, 2023, not all discovery was provided in a timely manner," the motion read. "The Commonwealth's disregard for the court's order and failure to comply with their obligation is sufficient to warrant a dismissal of these charges."
Additionally, Jordan slams the prosecutor's office, saying this is not the first time this type of missed deadline has happened in the past, and that missing the discovery deadline is "unfathomable" given recent changes in the prosecutor's office.
"Ever since the Commonwealth held the Fairfax Courts and Fairfax County hostage with their refusal to prosecute misdemeanor offenses due to a 'lack of resources,' the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has flooded the Commonwealth Attorney’s office with additional staff and funding," Jordan writes in the motion. "The Commonwealth is currently staffed at 54 attorneys, 13 paralegals and a litany of other support staff (they went from 63 employees to 84)."
Jordan writes that the prosecution should not be granted a continuance in this case, although the Commonwealth replied that it is not seeking one.
In a motion responding to the defense, Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Jennifer Zary said there are actually 36 attorneys and 31 support staff currently employed by the office, but argued the number of prosecutors is irrelevant. She broke down each claim and stressed providing discovery does not cease because a deadline passed.
The prosecutor in charge is the third attorney to take the case since the first two resigned in January and February, and began reviewing evidence and re-interviewing witnesses and officers on Feb. 27.
Zary said presumably the first two attorneys did not intend on showing the photographs, however, the current prosecutor now plans on showing some of them.
As for the witness list, the response said the "Commonwealth has to admit to her offices' fault. This was not filed timely." However, the Commonwealth argues that it should come as no surprise to the defense about witnesses, including the teacher and officer, since they were named in police reports and cross-examined before. They added that others officers involved were clearly identified in body camera videos presented to the defense.
However, the remaining names of parents and children on the bus are new information.
As far as the copies of convictions, Zary said since a public defender was appointed back in November, "it is unfathomable that they are unaware that their client appeared in court on Feb. 16, 2023, and entered pleas of guilty to the referenced charges."
The guilty pleas are in reference to operating a commercial vehicle with faulty brakes and operating a commercial vehicle without being medically certified or physically qualified to do so. Prosecutors wanted a judge to decide the admissibility of the convictions in court.
In response, Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth McCready filed a separate motion on March 10 to prevent prosecutors from "eliciting testimony or presenting evidence in Mr. Reynold's trial."
Some of the evidence or testimony she want excluded include any reference to prior illegal conduct, bad acts, arrests, or convictions, or interaction with police unrelated to the current case. The motion also asks to exclude any reference to a prior breathalyzer test before Reynold was arrested on October 27, and any reference to him "passing" or "failing" field sobriety tests or descriptions of the tests as giving "clues."
She argued any evidence to prior incidents are not relevant to the pending charges and would be "highly prejudicial with no probative value."
A spokesperson for the Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office said due to ongoing motions and pending court hearings, the office does not have a comment to provide right now.
A plea hearing has been set for Thursday, one day before a hearing scheduled on Friday to hear the motion to dismiss the charges. The future of the case could change depending on the outcome of the plea hearing.
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