Skip to comments.Jurors won't hear about bus blaze
Posted on 09/26/2006 3:42:16 PM PDT by Responsibility2nd
MCALLEN - Jurors today will hear about maintenance and safety practices of charter bus company Global Limo Inc. but not about the bus fire that killed 23 nursing home residents evacuated from Houston last year as Hurricane Rita bore down.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa granted a defense motion to limit testimony to alleged mismanagement that occurred during a four-month period before last year's accident.
James H. Maples, president and director of Pharr-based Global, faces charges he falsified driver time records and failed to adequately inspect and maintain his fleet of buses. The company was shut down for safety violations two weeks after the September 2005 accident.
Lawyers for Maples, a 67-year-old retired NFL player, have said that he looks forward to clearing his name.
An eight-woman, four-man jury was selected late Monday after two hours of questioning.
"I believe it's going to a fair and impartial jury," said defense attorney Charles Banker.
During jury selection, Justice Department prosecutors informed the court they plan to call Juan Robles Gutierrez, an undocumented immigrant from Monterrey who was driving the bus when the fire erupted near Dallas. His family has said Robles did all he could to stop the fire, but oxygen bottles needed by many elderly nursing home residents exploded as the fire spread from a rear wheel well.
Based on the judge's statements Monday, it appears testimony from Robles will be limited to his experiences with the company before the accident.
Robles was arrested on an immigration charge unlawful entry to the U.S. shortly after the accident, but he has been allowed to remain in Texas to testify.
Maples is accused of conspiring to falsify driver time records. If convicted, he could receive up to five years in prison on that charge alone.
The three-count indictment alleged that Global falsely recorded its drivers as ''off-duty" when they were actually riding as passengers, a violation of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations.
After the jury was excused Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kinchen of Houston received permission from the judge to introduce documents Maples signed in 2002 and 2004 acknowledging federal bus safety standards and agreeing to comply with them.
In May, victims of the bus fire reached a $11 million settlement with Global and BusBank, the Chicago travel broker that hired the bus company. At the time of the Sept. 23 fire, Global Limo had filed for bankruptcy.
Their pants will be sued off however.
Good luck on collecting even one thin dime, folks.