Prosecutors recommend maximum sentence for bus driver’s alleged attacker after MTA boss meets with DA
A gun-toting rider who chased down and threatened an MTA bus driver who didn’t pick up the commuter between stops should face a seven-year maximum prison term, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office said Wednesday.
Tony Burnett, 28, wearing tan jail scrubs and a frustrated expression, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on weapons possession and harassment charges in Manhattan Supreme Court, where dozens of dozens of transit union and MTA employees packed the hearing.
Assistant District Attorney Monica Narang said the office was taking a hard stance against Burnett for the confrontation with the driver on the Upper West Side last month, and recommended a maximum seven years if convicted.
A psychiatric fitness exam was also ordered after a request by Burnett’s lawyer, Reginald Sharpe.
“He has some mental health issues we’re trying to get to the bottom of,” Sharpe said afterward.
Prior to the court appearance, NYC Transit President Andy Byford met with Manhattan DA Cy Vance Jr. to push for a hard line against the alleged transit menace.
“There are far too many assaults on transit workers,” Byford said. “Honest, decent, hardworking New Yorkers who at the end of the day are just doing their job.”
Authorities allege Burnett chased down veteran driver Michael Haynes, 55, at 7:45 a.m. Aug. 9 as he was on his M11 bus route. Burnett, after Haynes didn’t stop for him at a corner where there was no bus stop, allegedly hopped into a taxi to catch up with the driver at Broadway and W. 83rd St.
He then got on the bus and whipped out a weapon, making threats, officials alleged.
“With no provocation whatsoever he was threatened by someone who quite frankly in my opinion should not be on the streets,” Byford said outside the courthouse.
Burnett allegedly has a hefty rap sheet “that contains a large number of offenses, violent offenses, that I hope the court will take into account,” the transit boss added. “We get that sometimes traveling on public transit can be frustrating... but that in no way excuses what went on," he said.
On the day of the incident, police caught up with Burnett and allegedly found a revolver loaded with six rounds in his duffel bag. He made a series of rambling statements to cops upon his arrest, court papers say.
“Oh is that why you’re stopping me, because of the bus?” he wondered, before admitting the weapon was in the duffel.