Miguel Rivera mugshot

Miguel Rivera

Some of the elementary school pupils he was transporting in a school bus may be college students by now, but Miguel Angel Rivera finally had his day in court Tuesday on charges that included drunken driving and endangering the welfare of children.

Rivera, 56, who has had addresses in Washington and Charleroi, was arrested by state police June 20 on a Washington County bench warrant issued after his last court appearance in 2013.

The state’s online docket listed his alias as Miguel Figueroa, but neither Assistant District Attorney Cassidy Gerstner nor Assistant Public Defender Adam Yarussi knew where the defendant had been for the past six years.

“This was even before I was an attorney,” Gerstner said after the conclusion of the court proceeding.

Yarussi said Rivera “has had a lot of ongoing medical conditions.”

One hundred and forty-two counts of endangering the welfare of children against Rivera were filed in connection with bus runs the morning of March 29, 2012, one count for each child he transported to Washington Park Elementary School.

After completing his regular routes, he was scheduled to drive a group of children to California University of Pennsylvania on a field trip when a teacher became suspicious and intervened. Washington police had his blood-alcohol content tested, and the result was 0.081 percent. State law prohibits a commercial driver from having a BAC greater than 0.02 percent within 30 minutes of driving.

Rivera told police he drank three beers the previous night.

Two days later, state police arrested Rivera on the Interstate 70 ramp to Jefferson Avenue in Washington for having an inoperable brake light on his own vehicle. His BAC then was 0.181 percent, more than twice the 0.08 percent limit at which intoxication is presumed for those driving passenger vehicles.

He also faced a conspiracy to commit retail theft charge filed by South Strabane Township police in August 2012.

On Tuesday morning, Rivera appeared before Judge Valarie Costanzo, pleading guilty to two counts of driving while intoxicated, one count of endangering the welfare of children and conspiracy to commit retail theft.

The judge sentenced him to a combination of incarceration, electronic home monitoring and probation over a period of 8 ½ years, plus restitution to Walmart on the retail theft conspiracy charge and fines.

He will receive credit for time served in 2012 and this year, and was ordered to attend highway safety school, be evaluated for drug and/or alcohol abuse and follow any recommended treatment plans.

Gerstner said Rivera’s home confinement will be monitored by a device that senses alcohol consumption, a violation of his intermediate punishment program.

“Due to the facts of the crime, we imposed harsher penalties than we normally do for a DUI offense,” she explained. “We consolidated the 142 counts into one, and it is to run consecutive to the DUI.”

Staff Writer

Staff Writer Barbara S. Miller is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College. She covers Washington County government, courts and general assignments.

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