- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A 22-year-old man who hijacked a suburban Little Rock school bus at knifepoint with 11 students aboard has pleaded guilty to multiple counts of kidnapping.

No one was injured when Nicholas John Miller hijacked the Jacksonville school bus at knifepoint last year. Miller was on board the bus for 50 minutes and drove the vehicle at times, running red lights and stop signs. He eventually stopped the bus after police placed spike strips on the road.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Friday (http://bit.ly/1nzElJd ) that Miller pleaded guilty to 11 charges of kidnapping Thursday and was sentenced to 55 years in prison. Prosecutors said families agreed to the plea deal so their children wouldn’t have to testify at trial.

Deputy prosecutor Barbara Mariani praised bus driver Sheila Hart for maintaining her composure during the Oct. 17 incident. Hart has since been honored by the city and the Pulaski County Special School District for her actions.

“The bus driver does a really good job of keeping him calm,” Mariani said, describing the hijacking from video recorded by the bus security camera. “They (the children) were lucky to have her.”

Miller’s defense attorney, Birc Morledge, says Miller was suffering from “drug-induced psychosis” caused by methamphetamine at the time and that he did not intend to hurt the children.

“It’s sad. He was hallucinating. He thought people were out to get him. He still believes that,” Morledge said. “He was not out to hurt those kids. He deeply regrets what happened, for scaring them and upsetting their parents.”

Prosecutors said Miller would have to serve nearly 14 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com