WASHINGTON — The woman who admitted to throwing a cup of her own urine at a Metrobus driver in August was sentenced on Thursday.
Opal Brown was sentenced to 120 days in jail and three years of probation, during which time she can’t ride on the X2 line. Judge Patricia Broderick said she wished she could have handed down more time for the August incident: “There’s no remorse,” Broderick said.
Cameras on the X2 bus captured Brown relieving herself into a cup. Then, at a stop at Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road, in Northeast D.C., Brown reached around the driver’s plastic shield and dumped the liquid before running off. The driver went to a hospital for “decontamination,” although she was otherwise unharmed.
Brown posted on Facebook that “it was me who did the bad stuff to the Metro operator” because she was being “very rude.” She told NBC Washington the driver told her ‘’have a nice day” sarcastically, and that “she had to get it!”
In court Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Norman also said that Brown used social media to make light of the fact that police were looking for her, by posting a link to an article about the assault.
Brown was arrested after the incident, and again in September after failing to make a court appearance. Last month, she decided to take a plea deal, pleading guilty to simple assault in exchange for having charges related to her failure to appear dropped. Brown has been held in jail since her September arrest and will be credited for time served.
Defense lawyer Donna Beasley said Brown has mental health problems and was also abusing drugs, which she said made for an “unfortunate situation for all involved.”
Brown opted to address the court, and said that she has apologized for the assault before. She maintained that she and the bus driver had been in an argument. Broderick said there was no evidence of an argument on the video and that there was “no way you can justify throwing urine on her face.”
“You just don’t get it,” Broderick added.
Brown also claimed the bus driver “was never affected” because the driver’s name did not widely appear in news reports, as hers did. That prompted jeers from the numerous transit workers in the courtroom. “That’s horrible,” one could be heard saying. Brown then revised her statement to say the driver was obviously affected by the attack itself.
“We’re satisfied,” said Carroll Thomas, vice president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, Metro’s largest union; “The judge did the most she could do.” He said the driver had only been on the job about a month when the attack happened.
The sentencing comes as the union continues to push for tougher penalties on people who assault bus drivers, a further increase in the number of police officers assigned to buses and an improved design for the barriers that protect bus operators.
The prosecution pointed out that 75 assaults against Metrobus operators were recorded in 2016, and Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said attacks are up significantly this year — 84 so far in 2017.
Stessel says Metro has already taken steps to improve the safety of drivers and, in turn, the public. He points to the cameras that are on all buses, an increase in police officers on bus routes and shields for drivers on more than one-third of the buses in the fleet, with the goal of all buses having the shields within two years.
He echoed the union’s statement that better designs for the shields would be looked at. “They weren’t designed envisioning an incident as repulsive as this,” he said.
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