BRECKENRIDGE - The driver who crashed his car into a Summit Stage bus last year injuring his girlfriend and two children on the bus will serve nine additional days in jail, a judge decided Monday.
Joshua Pierce, 32, was sentence to three years probation and 60 days in jail after he pleaded guilty to vehicular assault, a class 5 felony, and two counts of third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, relating to the crash in May of last year.
Pierce will receive credit for time already served and will be allowed to serve the remainder of his sentence around his work schedule. He maintains the crash was an accident brought on by his mental state after a week-long drug binge.
In delivering his decision, Judge Mark Thompson noted Pierce had virtually no criminal history and had spent six months in a residential rehabilitation facility for his drug use prior to the sentencing hearing.
"There is no question in the court's mind that your behavior that day was reckless," Thompson said. "Having said all of that, and recognizing that you have taken some steps toward accountability, I am going to find that a probation sentence is appropriate."
Prosecutors categorized the vehicular assault charge as a crime of domestic violence, as Pierce's girlfriend was severely injured in the crash, but Thompson dismissed the classification as there was no history of domestic violence.
The defense said Pierce was using meth and had gone seven days without sleep prior to the crash, but has since taken steps to change his life.
"I have a newfound appreciation for life and recognize the value of it," Pierce said, his voice breaking. "I have been clean and sober for 10 months since the accident. ... It is my every intention to continue on this path."
The victim told the court Monday she was getting better every day after her injuries. She also maintains the collision was an accident.
"I just want to say based on my knowledge of Josh for all the years I've known him, as well as my being a passenger in the car, I'm certain he had no intention of harming anyone that day," she said in court.
Pierce will have to remain employed, take random drug tests and complete 50 hours of community service per year for the extent of his probation. He will also be required to pay a still-undetermined amount in restitution.
Prosecutors argued Pierce intentionally drove his vehicle into the bus last spring during a fight with his girlfriend, who was in the passenger's seat.
He was initially charged with first- and second-degree assault, endangering public transportation and the attempted murder of his girlfriend after footage from a surveillance camera on the bus showed him appearing to intentionally drive his vehicle into the bus, according to an arrest affidavit.
She suffered several broken bones, a torn aorta and internal damage in the collision and had to be airlifted to a Front Range hospital.
"I marveled that more people weren't hurt," Thompson said at the hearing. "And, frankly I'm astonished that (the victim) is even here."
A 3-year-old and a 5-year-old who were riding the bus were injured as well.
A civil case relating to the incident is pending.