FULTON COUNTY, Ga. – The Madison County man charged in a deadly bus crash in Atlanta pleaded guilty in a Fulton County courtroom Friday morning.
This morning, Jerry Sims, who is a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church and a volunteer bus driver, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide – second degree, failure to maintain lane and improper lane change. All of the charges are misdemeanors. Members of Mt. Zion Church were on a bus to a mission trip when the wreck occurred on Camp Creek Parkway on June 8, 2017. Sarah Harmening, 17, died in the crash. More than 24 others were hospitalized.
WHNT News 19 got the opportunity for an exclusive interview with Sims' attorney, Jason W. Swindle, Sr.
Swindle says there is not a day that goes by that Sims doesn't think about the crash and feel remorse.
"I know how bad he feels," Swindle stated. "I know that he wakes up every single day with the child on his mind and he will have to live with that for the rest of his life."
Swindle also said this was the toughest case of his career and he prays for both Harmening family every day.
"I cannot imagine what the Hareming family has gone through," Swindle added. "I have prayed for them since this case started."
Sims's lawyer pointed out that the second-degree vehicular homicide is very different than first degree. He says it is a charge that doesn’t exist in Alabama. He wants people to know Sims was not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol.
"In Alabama, there is no such thing as vehicular homicide in the second degree," Swindle explained. "There's not a law that exists at all in Alabama like that. In Alabama, it's called an accident. In Georgia, we have a person when they commit a minor traffic violation, if there is an accident and someone dies, that is called vehicular homicide in the second degree. With what we're dealing with here, there is no intent involved at all."
He says there is more to Jerry Sims than just this crash.
"Jerry Sims is one of the most respected men in the Huntsville area," Swindle continued. "He reminds me a lot of Bob Burton who is my father in law. He not only serves the Lord and serves his community by mission trips, but he has served his church for years. He is a pillar of the community."
Swindle went on to explain his career.
"He's a president of the nuclear power plant security consulting team," Swindle said. "He's a member of the council that advises the Department of Homeland Security and the President on nuclear security."
Sims will be on probation for 24 months, he must pay a $1,000 fine and complete a defensive driving class. The judge ruled for Sims to be treated as a first time offender. Swindle says if Sims successfully completes his probation he will not be convicted.
The Harmening Family was present in court and provided a victim impact statement.