A month in jail and two more under home confinement is the sentence for a Minneapolis man who beat a Metro Transit bus driver while the attack was captured on video showing no one coming to the operator’s defense.
Sterling V. Smith, 26, was sentenced Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court after pleading guilty to interference with a transit operator, a felony, in connection with the April 10 attack on the Route 5 bus in north Minneapolis. The plea deal meant a more serious charge of third-degree assault was dismissed.
A passenger recorded the beating on video, and it was widely shared on social media. Laughter could be heard from one passenger, and no one on the bus attempted to intervene on the driver’s behalf.
After serving a month in jail, Smith will be shifted to two months of electric home monitoring for the balance of his 90-day sentence, which is trimmed by the four days he was jailed after his arrest. He’s also ordered to make $19,000 in restitution, serve three years’ probation and be evaluated for anger management.
Bus driver safety was a key issue during union contract talks last year. Many incidents involve passengers punching, choking, slapping and spitting on drivers, throwing bottles, and fighting with others on the bus.
Metro Transit plans to install protective shields on 150 buses this month to protect its drivers following recent assaults. Agency officials say the acrylic shield can be opened or closed at the driver’s discretion, enabling drivers to protect themselves without compromising customer service.
About 20 buses had the plexiglass installed in December 2017 to test its effectiveness. The bus in the April 2018 assault did not have the plexiglass.
According to charges against Smith, three women boarded the bus at Emerson and 15th avenues N. The driver asked one of them to stop swearing; when she did not comply, he called dispatch and asked police to remove her.
Another woman on the bus approached the driver and asked why they weren’t moving. At that point, the woman accused of swearing said the driver had made racial comments. Nothing on the video substantiated that claim. The driver was white, the woman black, according to transit police.
The second woman called Smith, her boyfriend, who lives nearby. He got on the bus and punched the seated driver in the head several times.