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Former bus driver might avoid jail time

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The former school bus driver and owner of the bus company contracted by the St. Ignatius School District who was charged with dealing methamphetamine entered into a plea agreement at District Court in Polson on Thursday, Sept. 27. The plea agreement could keep him from being incarcerated. 

Scott William Johnson, 55, pled guilty to a single count of felony criminal possession of dangerous drugs. Additional felony counts of endangering the welfare of children and criminal distribution of dangerous drug are to be dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

According to court records, Lake County Sheriff’s Deputies, equipped with a warrant following a months-long investigation, witnessed a drug deal involving Johnson in May. A Lake County Deputy made a traffic stop on Johnson’s vehicle shortly after the deal. 

Johnson told the deputy he was a bus driver for the St. Ignatius School District, and he must have him confused with someone else. Johnson eventually confessed to having purchased and smoked methamphetamine and that he could “buy ounces of methamphetamine easily.” A search of the vehicle Johnson was stopped in produced the 3.5 grams of meth he had just purchased.

Deputies involved in the investigation interviewed an unidentified “citizens informant” who indicated they had purchased methamphetamine from Johnson a week prior to his arrest in exchange for cash and sexual services. The informant also stated they smoked meth in the school’s bus barn and in the blue and white “sports bus” and other buses. 

The St. Ignatius School Board voted to end Johnson’s contract to provide bus services for the school and has hired a new company. They also hired a crew to clean the bus barn before new buses were brought in.

Lake County Chief Deputy Attorney James Lapotka explained to Judge Kim Christopher that the distribution charge was based on circumstantial evidence that could be difficult to prove at trial. Johnson’s attorney Britt Cotter told the judge that there was no definitive proof that meth was ever used on the bus. Although two buses and the bus barn initially tested positive for methamphetamine, Lapotka explained that more extensive testing showed the levels of meth that were detected did not pose a health risk.

As for the alleged trading of sexual services for methamphetamine, Lapotka explained there was no force involved and that if that did occur it was between consenting adults.

Johnson presented the court with a check in the amount of $11,765 to pay for any cleanup costs incurred by the St. Ignatius School District. Johnson also presented proof that he voluntarily and successfully completed a 28-day drug treatment program satisfying a concern of the court. Judge Christopher set the case for sentencing on Nov. 8.  The plea agreement calls for a joint recommendation of sentencing to be deferred for a period of three years.


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