A 46-year-old man admitted to driving a school bus while high in September, endangering his student passengers and other Billings drivers.
Keith Adam Jones pleaded guilty in Yellowstone County District Court on Friday to two counts of criminal endangerment, a felony, and to a single misdemeanor count of driving under the influence, a first offense.
Jones was falling asleep at the wheel, driving over curbs and into a yard on his morning route dropping off students at Ben Steele Middle School on Sept. 17, 2020. He was driving for the private busing company First Student, which contracts with Billings Public Schools.
Students had called their parents to report the erratic driving.
A police officer speaking with Jones after arriving at the school said his speech was slurred and difficult to understand.
At the Yellowstone County Detention Center’s DUI unit, Jones tested negative on a breath sample for alcohol but admitted to using marijuana.
However, under his admission on Friday, Jones pleaded guilty to being under the influence of meth at the time.
Under a plea deal, prosecutors will recommend 10 years with the Department of Corrections, with five of those years suspended, or served on probation. They'll also seek a $1,500 fine, chemical dependency evaluation and a requirement that Jones follow all treatment recommendations.
Prosecutors charged Jones with one count of criminal endangerment for all of the passengers on his bus, and another count for other drivers on the road.
Jones was fired after the incident.
In 2009, another driver for First Student drove drunk and ran a red light near West High School at approximately 7 a.m., hitting a 15-year-old student and breaking her leg. Timothy Whalen, a former Democratic state legislator from Billings, was sentenced to six years with the Montana Department of Corrections.