MORGANTOWN — A Butler County woman who admitted to being intoxicated while driving a school bus full of children was sentenced Tuesday afternoon to five years in prison.
Sandra Ford, 55, of Morgantown, received the sentence in Butler Circuit Court on 59 counts of first-degree wanton endangerment and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants. Ford recently pleaded guilty to all charges against her.
At her sentencing, Ford’s attorney, Sam Lowe of the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, requested probation, citing her lack of a previous serious criminal history and her completion of alcohol rehab at a drug and alcohol treatment facility.
Butler County Circuit Judge Ronnie Dortch said before imposing the sentence that Ford’s age and lack of a prior criminal history made this a difficult case for him. “For any other type of offense, I’d find it difficult to sentence a grandmother to prison,” Dortch said.
The judge, however, went on to order Ford to prison, following the recommendation of Butler County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Blake Beliles, who argued for the five-year sentence because of the number of children on the bus Ford’s was driving while intoxicated.
Dortch said he was concerned about the example that would be set by probating Ford, given the circumstances of the case. “Thank heavens no one was hurt, including you and especially the children,” Dortch said.
Ford was arrested March 9 when Butler County Sheriff Scottie Ward received a complaint from a parent whose children rode the bus. The children told their mother upon getting off the bus that the driver was acting funny and they thought she was drunk, Ward previously told the Daily News.
Ward notified the school district superintendent and the director of transportation for the district, who, along with the assistant transportation director, left the school board office to find the bus. They found it on Clark Landing Road, and the assistant director took over driving and finished the route, according to court records, while Ford was taken back to the Butler County Education Complex, where Ward met her.
Ford was given two sobriety tests, both of which indicated she had been drinking, and her blood alcohol content was measured at 0.192 percent, according to court records.
The measurement was nearly five times the 0.04 percent limit the state allows for drivers operating a commercial vehicle.
Ward’s investigation determined that 59 children rode the bus the day Ford was arrested, resulting in Ford’s indictment on an equivalent number of wanton endangerment charges.
Prior to her arrest, Ford had driven a school bus for the county for 17 years.
Ford took a job cleaning houses since her arrest, Lowe said.