A pre-trial was held Friday morning in the 392nd district court in the case of 79 year-old John Stevens of Mabank. Judge Scott McKee presided over the hearing, which further discussed a matter of immunity for the engineer and conductor of the Union Pacific train that hit an Athens school bus in January 2019, which Stevens was driving. The wreck killed 13 year-old Christopher Bonilla and injured 9 year-old Joselyn Torres.
A grand jury indicted Stevens on two charges of injury to a child, causing serious bodily injury and manslaughter/criminally negligent homicide. Stevens pled not guilty to both charges.
Stevens' defense attorneys requested a deposition from the engineers and conductor, which the attorneys for the train employees said they would allow only if clients were granted immunity.
McKee now has to determine if it is constitutional for a judge to grant immunity. The judge said he is researching the issue before him, to make a ruling.
“We are just proud to represent John,” said Justin Weiner attorney for the defense. “Unfortunately, we are now fighting Union Pacific in addition to the government.
Regardless, we will not stop fighting to make sure that justice prevails after this tragic accident. Mike, Brian and I appreciate that we have great judges in Henderson County that protect the integrity of our entire criminal justice system.”
District Attorney Mark Hall released the following comments Tuesday.
"The Court absolutely made the correct decision in allowing the state’s request for immunity in this case. Although a separation of powers argument was not raised by the defense, Judge McKee is always diligent to adhere to the Constitution, and I appreciate his thoughtful consideration of all aspects of the issue, and confirming that the offer of immunity from prosecution is within the sound discretion of the District Attorney.
The fact immunity was offered in the first place was only to facilitate the proceedings in this case and the defense request for depositions. It in no way suggests that either the conductor or engineer were in any way responsible for the collision that took the life of Christopher Bonilla and severely injured Joselyne Torres, as I believe the facts will show that the only person responsible for that is the defendant, Mr. Stevens"