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DRIVER CLEARED IN SCUFFLE WITH NFTA POLICE

Elizabeth Taylor Oliver, the NFTA bus driver arrested after coming to the aid of a student during a scuffle with transit police, was acquitted of all charges Thursday.

A City Court jury deliberated an hour before delivering its verdict to City Judge Patrick M. Carney. The verdict followed a three-day trial at which Oliver, the student and four witnesses to the incident testified.

The jury found Oliver not guilty of obstructing governmental administration, harassment, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct in the Oct. 6, 2003, incident at the Utica Metro Rail Station.

Moments after the verdict, Oliver, 33, prayed in the courthouse hallway with friends and her lawyer, David G. Jay.

"I'm just happy it's over and justice has been served," said Oliver, now on light-duty status as a door greeter at the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority's communications center on Oak Street. She is expecting her fifth child around Christmas.

Asked if she is considering a civil suit against the NFTA, she said that was an issue "I will have to discuss with my lawyers."

In his closing argument, Jay cited testimony from four eyewitnesses as he stressed what he called the "overbearing" misconduct of transit officers who made Oliver, whom he called a good Samaritan, "the subject of their wrath."

Prosecutor G. Michael Drmacich contended Oliver "went too far" in interfering with legitimate police business dealing with Da-Vinci High School student Whitley Kye and said that defense witnesses did not have a good view of the incident.

Oliver, in hourlong testimony Thursday, denied prosecution claims that she ripped the badge off one officer who confronted her.

Oliver testified that she left the bus after noticing four transit officers treating Kye in what she called a rough manner.

She testified that one officer had a knee on Kye's neck area and when she told the officers "they didn't need to do that," they told her to get away.

She testified that she believed officers were "using excessive" force to hold Kye down and that she was scared so she returned to her bus to radio her supervisor to see if she should comply with the officers' demands that she identify herself by name.

She said she gave the transit officers her NFTA badge number, which Jay argued was all the data they needed to quickly identify Oliver.

Oliver testified that the treatment she received from the transit officers who arrested her left her with a bump on her head, a bad headache and arm and leg injuries.

Also Thursday, Sammy Dargan, 17, a friend of Kye, testified that Transit Officer Michelle Pettys was "pulling on (Kye) and grabbing her" as she was leaving the transit station under Pettys' order.

He testified that Pettys approached Kye as she was laughing while talking on her cell phone and said, "If there's something funny give me your bus pass." Kye did not comply.

He also said officers grabbed Oliver from the seat of her bus and she "fell to the floor" shortly before being pulled off the bus.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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