A frustrated passenger who took it out on her bus driver received a six-month sentence on Riker’s Island and the driver was in court to see the sentence handed down. Transit Reporter Jose Martinez filed the following report.
On Thursday, Steangeli Medina began serving a six-month sentence on Rikers Island for assaulting a veteran bus driver who wouldn't let her board a Bx9 in the company of an uncaged Chihuahua.
"I feel very good, justice is served. It showed that people cannot just go and hit on the operators, we're only doing our job,” said Marlene Bien-Aime.
Bien Aime suffered eye, knee and shoulder injuries after getting thrashed in June 2011 by the enraged passenger, who didn't have a carrier for her pooch.
"I was only doing my job. I just let her know what MTA wanted me to do, tell her to put the dog in a dog bag and she could come in the bus. But without that, she cannot come,” said Bien-Aime.
Bronx Supreme Court Justice Robert Torres ordered a psychiatric exam for Medina, who pleaded guilty last week to felony assault. She gets five years' probation in addition to jail time.
The threat of getting locked up is plain to see for any rider hopping on-board.
There's a sticker on the outside of every city bus warning of punishment for anyone who assaults a bus driver. And officials with Transport Workers Union Local 100 want riders to know, they should take it seriously.
"The sticker is just not there on the side of the bus for entertainment. If you hit a bus operator or a transit employee, we will take you to court,” said LaTonya Crisp-Sauray of TWU Local 100.
And while the six-month sentence isn't the stiff punishment advertised on the sticker, it's still jail time.
"They do keep their words. You're not going for seven years, but you will pay the consequences of it,” said Bien-Aime.
According to the MTA, assaults against bus drivers have been dropping since 2009, when 126 drivers were beaten. The union has also pushed the agency to pick up the pace on installing shields to protect drivers from angry passengers.
"We cannot tolerate that type of assault. And we will not – anymore,” sauid Elizabeth Wilson of TWU Local 100.
Just ask this unhappy Chihuahua owner.