Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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October 26, 2012

Bus driver case now awaits new judge

Theresa Mast accused of driving bus while drunk.

Kokomo — Former Kokomo school bus driver Theresa Mast’s trial likely will be further delayed after Howard Superior Court 3 Judge Doug Tate took himself off the case this week.

Mast’s attorney, Stephanie Doran, asked Tate to recuse himself after Tate acknowledged his wife, Lisa Tate, is an athletic trainer with Kokomo Center Schools.

Mast, 57, was arrested Dec. 4, 2011, on a felony charge of operating while intoxicated, endangering a minor, after Howard County sheriff deputies alleged Mast was both drunk and medicated as she drove the girls swim team from Kokomo High School to at least the intersection of U.S. 31 and East 256th Street in Hamilton County.

She pleaded not guilty to the felony and two other misdemeanor charges, and was scheduled to go on trial Nov. 2 in Tate’s court.

Witnesses said Mast drove onto the rumble strips on both sides of U.S. 31 multiple times and showed erratic behavior, as the bus made its way south on U.S. 31 into Hamilton County, police said.

Doran already had unsuccessfully tried to get the case moved to another county, and to have a different prosecutor assigned to the case. Tate turned down both of those motions.  

But Doran’s latest motion came after Tate came forward with a voluntary admission that his wife was contracted to work with Kokomo’s high school athletic teams, including the swim team involved in the Dec. 4 incident.

Once a new judge is assigned to the case, a new trial date will be set. As of Friday, a new judge hadn’t been selected.

Typically prosecutors and defense attorneys select from a group of three possible judges, with each side allowed to “strike” one judge from the selection to arrive at a consensus decision.

Mast was released from jail in December after posting $5,000 bail, 10 percent of the $50,000 bond, with the conditions she be placed on in-home detention until the trial.

The Kokomo school board fired Mast days after her arrest.

Scott Smith can be reached at (765) 454-8569 or at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com

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