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Aug 23, 2016 7:09 PM

Woman gets suspended jail sentence, community service for crashing NH school bus into a tree while on her phone


BRENTWOOD - A former Nottingham bus driver received a suspended three month jail sentence and 80 hours community service for crashing a school bus while looking down at her cell phone last winter.

Stephanie Boyd was visibly upset in court Tuesday as she prepared for her sentencing at Rockingham County Superior Court.

Her manager at Dail Transportation, family members of the victim, Boyd's relatives, and even Boyd herself spoke to the court ahead of the sentencing.

"I don't want people to think that I have no sense of remorse for the incident that happened because the incident that happened I did myself, and it's been eating at me for almost two years," Boyd said.

The crash occurred in February 2015 when Boyd was driving her regular route in Nottingham. She has admitted to looking down at her phone to check on the download status of an application when she struck a tree. Eleven children were on the bus at the time. Three of them were injured, and one fractured her jaw when she hit the bus seat in front of her.

Her father, Seth Stevens, delivered a victim impact statement in court, explaining the medical procedures, dental work, and what his family has been through since the accident.

"When we put our child on the bus, we expect her to be safe and for things like this not to happen," Stevens said. "We feel that she should have to be inconvenienced for at least as long as we were."

Jennifer Spagna also addressed Boyd directly, as both her children were on the bus at the time.

"We entrusted you with our world. Not just on that day, but every day you drove that bus," she said. "Your complete disregard for that responsibility that comes with that trust both horrifies me and disgusts me."

When Boyd spoke to the court, she explained she has taken full responsibility for her actions and still feels guilty and remorseful for her actions.

"I owned it," she said. "It's not something that's just...that I can let go. I'm going to live with this for the rest of my life."

Boyd's family also spoke on her behalf, saying her children would have a very difficult time without her if she was sent to prison.

She was facing as many as seven years, as she was found guilty of reckless conduct, a felony, and three misdemeanors, including endangering the welfare of a child and two counts of simple assault.

Prosecutors were asking for a one-to-two-year sentence alongside community service.

"There needs to be punishment," said Assistant County Attorney Ken Burlage during his argument. "This isn't a case that warrants a slap on the wrist. We need to send a message to the state. We need to send a message to people that if you are impaired and you are driving, that is a serious offense."

Judge Andrew Schulman disagreed, saying a felony conviction is punishment enough, and the publicity the trial received has made enough of an example of her.

"I said it in the trial and I'll say today, nothing in the sentencing memorandum or anything I've heard tells me that this case has been anything else other than a nice person who made a grievously wrong mistake," he said before handing down the suspended sentence and community service hours.

He also suggested some of Boyd's community service hours be spent speaking to high school students and organizations about the dangers of using cell phones while driving, as well as writing letters to the editor to media outlets to respond to the amount of coverage.

The prosecution asked that if Boyd speak at any schools, they should not include Coe-Brown Northwood Academy or any of the Nottingham schools.

Neither Boyd nor the victims' families spoke to the media after sentencing.

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