In a trial of two ex-Culpepper County, Virginia, public school workers, one was found guilty of assault charges arising out of an incident involving a 5-year-old autistic male student on a school bus. The second defendant was found not guilty of a verbal and physical assault on the kindergarten student.
The trial including the playing of video and audio surveillance tapes of the alleged incident. After three hours of testimony and presentation of evidence, the trial judge found a 56-year-old female former bus aide guilty of assault and battery. A 50-year-old female former teacher’s aide was acquitted. The case was tried without a jury.
The convicted defendant received a suspended sentence of six months of incarceration, as well as being barred from further contact with the student or any work with children under the age of 12. The judge also ordered that she attend classes on how to handle her anger. The incident occurred when the boy got upset because a “magic wand” was taken away from him after he was accused of hitting other students with it. The video shows the teacher’s aide verbally berating the student while trying to fasten his seatbelt on the bus. At the same time, the 300-pound bus aide is shown leaning on the 50-pound child, causing him pain according to the prosecutor.
The case illustrates the fact that even when detailed evidence such as a video and audio tape of an incident cause a prosecutor to file charges, what is seen and heard is still subject to interpretation and argument. A vigorous and skilled defense attorney’s work can sometimes make the difference between a guilty verdict and an acquittal. Different defendants in the same incident may have different degrees of culpability – or no culpability at all, depending on the specifics of what they did.
Star Exponent, “Exclusive: Turner found guilty in bus attack on autistic boy” Rhonda Simmons, Sep. 24, 2013