MILWAUKEE — A Milwaukee woman convicted in connection with an attack on a Milwaukee County Transit System bus driver on May 15 near 76th Street and Appleton Avenue was sentenced Tuesday, Nov. 19 to 15 months in prison.
Betty Roberts, 24, entered an Alford plea Tuesday — a guilty plea of a defendant who proclaims (s)he is innocent of the crime but admits that the prosecution has enough evidence to prove that (s)he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
In addition to the 15 months in prison, Roberts was sentenced to serve another 21 months’ extended supervision, and the court recommended that be served in a mental health unit.
The assault happened after officials said Roberts refused to pay the bus fare around 3:30 p.m. on May 15. When confronted by the driver, officials said she became both verbally and physically abusive to the bus driver. MCTS officials said the bus driver suffered minor injuries to his arm when the woman climbed over the driver’s security shield and stabbed him.
According to the criminal complaint, the MCTS driver said he was on his normal route when he heard a honk from another bus driver, signaling that a passenger was attempting to get on his bus. The driver pulled over just north of the intersection of W. Capitol Drive and W. Appleton Avenue to let the passenger get on.
The complaint indicated when the passenger, later identified as Roberts, got on the bus, she stood in front of the driver. That’s when the driver allegedly said, “Ma’am, please pay your bus fare and sit down so I can drive.” That’s when Roberts allegedly placed a penny in the fare collection. The driver told Roberts it was “$2.25 to ride.”
The driver then grabbed the phone on the bus and pretended to make a call in an attempt to get Roberts to pay, leave, or sit down. That’s when Roberts walked by and sat down, according to the complaint.
A few moments later, Roberts allegedly approached the driver again and began “harassing” him and went on a “rampage,” according to the complaint.
The complaint indicated Roberts jumped over the partial partition and began to press any and all buttons that she could on the control panel. At one point, Roberts was on top of the steering wheel while the operator was driving.
When the MCTS driver called dispatch, Roberts allegedly yelled, “Drop the phone.” At that time, the driver observed what he believed to be a knife in Roberts’ hand. The driver told police he was struggling to fight Roberts off while she was grabbing on the handle on the partition. During this struggle, Roberts cut the bus driver on his right forearm.
Roberts then fled the bus in the area of 76th Street and Appleton Avenue.
According to the complaint, the MCTS bus driver sustained a two- to three-inch-long, thin laceration on his right forearm.
The complaint said after officials asked for help identifying the person responsible for the attack on the bus driver, an anonymous tip came in, identifying her as Betty Roberts. The driver confirmed Betty Roberts was the person who attacked him.
Roberts told investigators she “uses crack and heroin” and “had no recollection of the incident.” She said she did not remember boarding a bus at Appleton and Capitol, and did not recall jumping over the partition and stabbing the driver.
The driver, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke out after Roberts pleaded not guilty on May 28.
“It’s still traumatic,” said the MCTS bus driver who was stabbed. “No one needs to be fearful or afraid going to legitimate work.”
His co-workers were also in court, showing support for him, as was James Macon, president of the MCTS bus drivers’ union, who talked about proposals for shields to protect drivers, and another proposal calling for the arming of bus drivers.
Meanwhile, an MCTS spokeswoman noted a steady decrease in driver assaults since 2016.