Thursday, June 24, 2021

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Bus driver that killed 11 in 2009 Colusa County could be released

Quintin Joey Watts

The bus driver sentenced to 26 years and four months in state prison in connection to the 2008 crash that killed 11 people and injured nearly two dozen more will likely be released from state prison. 

Quintin Joey Watts, now 64, has been incarcerated at California State Prison, in Solano, since a jury found him guilty in 2009 of 11 counts of manslaughter and 21 counts of causing great bodily injury to the surviving passengers. 

The charter bus was on its way to the Colusa Casino for a night of gambling. 

Watts admitted to falling asleep at the wheel after having as little as three hours sleep in a 36 hour period, but claimed that his boss, Daniel Cobb, pressured him to drive anyway, even after Watts claimed he was too tired. 

Cobb was killed in the crash, along with 10 others, when Watts fell asleep and allowed the bus to careen off rural Lonestar Road, between Colusa and Williams, where it overturned. 

Watts was resentenced in Colusa County Court on Monday in keeping with a 2015 California Supreme Court decision that ruled enhancements for personally inflicting great bodily injury are not applicable in vehicular manslaughter cases. 

The defendant in this case was convicted of vehicular manslaughter for the 11 deaths, and was sentenced to four years in the first court and one year and four months for the 10 other deaths to be served consecutively. 

The trial court then applied the enhancements to 21 surviving victims, after a jury acquitted Watts on two of the 23 counts. He was sentenced to three years on each enhancement with 20 years of that time stayed. 

Colusa County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey A. Thompson, who originally sentenced Watts in 2009, said he applied the law as it was written at the time, but that the Supreme Court has now determined that the enhancement charges are not permissible. 

Thompson upheld the original sentence of four years for the first death, and one year and four months on the 10 others, bringing his total sentence to about 14 years, less credits for time served. 

Watts, who was also critically injured in the crash, served 121 in jail awaiting trial. 

At the time of Watts’ original sentence, defendants received one third the actual time served a credit for good conduct.  

California changed the amount of good time credits to 100 percent, so that most defendants will be released after serving half their sentences. 

Thompson said that while the California Department of Corrections will calculate the actual amount of credit Watts will receive while in prison the past 11 years, it is likely that the Stockton man’s time is up and he will be released to return home.

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