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Driver In Fatal Church Bus Crash Pleads No Contest

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
Jack D. Young, right, leaves the Ulvalde County Justice Center shortly after entering a no contest plea

The driver responsible for a head-on collision in 2017 that killed 13 church members from New Braunfels pleaded no contest to multiple manslaughter counts in a Uvalde County courtroom Thursday. Jack D. Young could face decades in prison for their deaths.

On March 29 2017, Young’s vehicle veered into oncoming traffic, crashing into a bus carrying members of the First Baptist Church of New Braunfels. His original plea of not guilty was changed Thursday to no contest for 13 counts of intoxication manslaughter and one count of intoxication assault. Thirteen involuntary manslaughter charges were dropped.

Each manslaughter charge could mean two to 20 years in prison, and up to 10 years for the assault charge. The sentences could be served concurrently but potentially total 270 years.

Young had no comment as he left the Uvalde County Justice Center, but his attorney Rogelio Munoz said Young made his plea to go through with a trial.

“He figured it would be better to just put an end to it for his sake and the sake of the families in this tragedy,” Munoz said.

Judge Camille DuBose of the 38th District Court scheduled sentencing to begin on Nov. 7.

Medina County District Attorney Daniel Kindred declined to comment after the hearing, saying the case is still ongoing.

Munoz didn’t say what his client’s plan would be moving forward but Young had been under the influence of “psychiatric medication” the day of the crash, as the result of being the victim in an unrelated criminal case.

“I think it was Clonazepam,” said Munoz of the drug Clonazepam commonly used to treat anxiety. “We believe [that] is a contributing factor. It should be a mitigating factor in what happened that day.”  

Avis Banks, 84, was one of the church members killed in the crash. Her daughter Charlotte Banks said in the courtroom she appreciates Young’s new plea.

“That’s actually, in my opinion, generous in his part,” she said, “because that means it cuts out a very long process we would have to go through.

“... (We) can now reach an end to something that has been very tragic in each of our families, our churches, our communities and everyone involved.”

Banks added she attended Thursday’s hearing for closure. “This is what I need. My mom was closed casket. There was no option to say goodbye. So this is part of the process to make that final closure from it.”

Young is currently out on bond before sentencing.

Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules