A man who has been hospitalized since he allegedly rammed his car into a school bus carrying seven high school students in Pedley pleaded not guilty today to multiple felony charges.
Joseph Anthony Garcia, 44, is facing eight counts of assault with a deadly weapon — the last count for the driver of the bus — in connection with the Oct. 20 wreck on an offramp from the westbound Pomona (60) Freeway to Pedley Road.
Garcia had eight previously scheduled arraignments, but he didn’t appear for any of them. The defendant has been in the detention ward at Riverside County Regional Medical Center in Moreno Valley since his arrest, and doctors there refused to clear him to leave the hospital because of his injuries, the extent and type of which were not disclosed.
On Monday, Riverside County Superior Court Judge James T. Warren decided to schedule arraignment for this morning at the medical center. The judge appointed a public defender to represent the defendant and set a felony
settlement conference for Nov. 30.
Garcia’s bail was set at $25,000.
Just before 11 a.m. on Oct. 20, Garcia drove his gray four-door Chevrolet HHR underneath a Riverside (60) Freeway overpass in Pedley and parked. Witnesses reported that the defendant was behaving erratically and tried to scale a fence to reach the top of the overpass but failed.
He jumped back into his vehicle and allegedly steered it straight into oncoming traffic leaving the freeway, striking the 80-passenger bus head-on.
Three Nueva Vista Continuation High School students aboard the bus, which was taking them home, suffered minor injuries in the collision and were treated at the scene.
Garcia’s vehicle was crushed, trapping the defendant inside. Fire crews pried him out of the wreck and transported him to a hospital for treatment of moderate injuries.
The bus sustained significant front-end damage.