WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The attorney for a Forsyth County man accused of passing a stopped school bus and killing an 11-year-old boy in 2012 has withdrawn a motion to move the trial out of the county.
Billy Roger Bailey, 46, of Old Hollow Road was charged with involuntary manslaughter and passing a stopped school bus in connection with the Dec. 19, 2012, death of Hasani Wesley, a sixth-grader at East Forsyth Middle School.
In September, George Cleland, one of Bailey’s attorneys, filed a motion for a change of venue, arguing that publicity in the case would prevent Bailey, a minister with Cross Roads Ministry of Walkertown, from having a fair and impartial trial. A hearing in Forsyth Superior Court was scheduled for this week, but Cleland filed court papers to withdraw the motion.
Judge William Z. Wood of Forsyth Superior Court signed an order Wednesday allowing Cleland to withdraw the motion for change of venue.
“Roger Bailey is comfortable in letting a Forsyth County jury decide his case,” Cleland said Thursday.
If a Forsyth Superior judge had granted the motion, the trial would have been moved to an adjoining judicial district, such as Wilkes County.
Cleland said in September that he filed the motion for change of venue because the case had received widespread and persistent publicity that made it difficult to maintain a presumption of innocence that is supposed to be afforded Bailey.
“Everybody mourns the death of Hasani, but just because Hasani was killed getting on a school bus does not mean my client is guilty of passing a school bus and hitting him,” Cleland told the Winston-Salem Journal in September.
Cleland also cited the fact that Hasani’s death led to a law named after him that imposes stiffer penalties on people charged with passing stopped school buses.
The accident that killed Hasani happened at about 6:50 a.m. He had missed his bus as it went south on Old Hollow Road. The bus driver turned around as part of her normal route and was in the process of picking up Hasani. The bus was headed north, while Bailey was in the southbound lane, going about 41 to 50 miles an hour, according to N.C. Highway Patrol.
As Hasani tried to cross the road, the vehicle driven by Bailey hit him, the highway patrol said.
Cleland said in September that Bailey does not believe that the bus had stopped when he hit Hasani. The bus driver, Stephanie Fulton of Goodwill Church Road, told state troopers that the stop lights were on and the stop arm extended, though it wasn’t clear from her statement whether Hasani started crossing the road before the bus stopped.
If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Bailey faces a maximum penalty of three years and five months. A trial has been tentatively scheduled for Dec. 2.