Girl sobs through testimony in trial of former North Shore bus driver accused of sex assaultA 9-year-old girl entered a St. Louis County courtroom on Friday crying with both of her hands covering her face.
By: Forum Newspapers, Lake County News Chronicle
A 9-year-old girl entered a St. Louis County courtroom on Friday crying with both of her hands covering her face.
Judge David Johnson gave her a couple of minutes to gain her composure on the witness stand. The girl then testified that Jimmy Jerome James, her former school bus driver at North Shore Community School, touched her in a way that she didn’t like. She tearfully told jurors that she also saw James inappropriately touch another girl on the bus. She stepped down from the stand, again covered her face with both hands and was crying as her parents led her out of the courtroom.
Jurors were then shown a video of the same girl being interviewed at the First Witness Child Abuse Resource Center. In a much more relaxed atmosphere, the girl told a social worker that James had put his hand inside her clothes and touched her chest and private parts on the skin more than once as she was getting off the bus. She said she saw James touch another girl on the bus the same way.
James, 63, of Two Harbors is standing trial accused of having criminal sexual contact with five pre-teen girls between December 2009 and April 2010. St. Louis County prosecutor Nathaniel Stumme rested his case Friday.
James’ attorney, Joanna Wiegert, said her client has been wrongly accused. She will begin to present her defense on Monday. Outside the courtroom, Wiegert said her client will testify in his own defense.
Two eighth-grade girls, who were sixth-grade bus patrols on James’ bus at the time of the alleged incidents, testified for the prosecution on Friday. They said James had done nothing inappropriate to them. But at the time, they were concerned that he might be touching the younger girls on the bus inappropriately.
One of the former bus patrols, now living in a Twin Cities suburb, was poised beyond her years. She told jurors that she had thought that James was “super nice.” She said a friend of hers also liked James because he was “so cool he let kids sit on his lap and open the door.”
But when the other bus patrol told her that she had seen James grab a girl around the waist, she knew it was a serious matter and she wanted to keep it secret until she and the other bus patrol could find out exactly what was going on.
The bus patrol members talked to the other girls on March 18, 2010, and created a list of what they said the younger girls said James did to them. One bus patrol member then gave the list to a St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office investigator and it was shown to jurors by Stumme on Friday.
With the names of the alleged victims redacted by the News Tribune, the list drawn up by both bus patrols and shown to jurors read:
•Touched her inappropriately, grabbed her side. Started before Christmas. Still happening. Reached down their pants.
•Same. Asks her to open door. Reaches down shirt and pants. Started halfway through the year. Still going.
•Same as (two girls’ names redacted) Started before X-mas. Still going.
•Girl’s name redacted, followed by “reached up her shirt.’’ But someone lined through that entry.
•I don’t think (girls name redacted) will understand because she likes him.
Wiegert suggested to jurors in her opening statement that the bus patrol leaders led the other girls to believe that James’ hugs and friendliness were more inappropriate than they actually were.