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Bus Driver Gets Probation for Taking Kids on Wild Ride

Bus Driver Gets Probation for Taking Kids on Wild Ride

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A former San Juan County school bus driver charged with 12 counts of kidnapping for taking his child passengers on a wild ride last November will only serve probation.

Seventh District Judge Lyle Anderson agreed to take in abeyance a guilty plea from Rodney S. Munson, 45.

Munson agreed to a 36-month probation with conditions that include ongoing counseling, drug therapy, and restrictions against bus driving and heavy equipment operation, said San Juan County Attorney Craig Halls.

If Munson successfully completes the probation, the kidnap charges will be dropped, along with one felony account of aggravated assault and one misdemeanor count of leaving the scene of an accident.

The Nov. 24. incident started after Munson began picking up elementary and junior high students along his rural bus route about five miles northeast of Monticello, Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Glenn Begay has said.

Munson didn't finish his route, and told the students he had picked up he was going to take them "some place special," Begay said. Students told police that place was apparently going to be Moab, about 50 miles north of Monticello.

As the bus left the rural road to get on to State Route 491, it ran a stop sign and hit a pickup.

Begay said Munson then took the bus five miles into Monticello, where he stopped at a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' temple.

The children evacuated the bus while the driver stood rattling the temple's gates, screaming, "I'm confused," Begay said.

Munson then allegedly went to his own home and left in a pickup. He either ran out of gas or broke down about 25 miles north of town. A friend picked him up and negotiated his surrender.

According to several mental-health workers, Munson experienced a psychotic episode, said Halls.

"All the psychologists were going to give him all the wiggle room he needed to get out of it," Halls said of his decision not to pursue a criminal trial.

"This is not satisfying for me. There was a potential for some serious harm," Halls said.

The outcome is in Munson's best interest, said defense attorney Rose Reilly.

"Rodney was psychotic at the time of the incident and has no memory of that time," Reilly said. "He has spent so many years as a good member of this community; what we wanted was to get him treated."

Munson no longer lives in San Juan County. His attorney refused to say where he now lives, but noted that authorities will continue to monitor him.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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