Prosecutor mulls whether to retry Two Harbors bus driverA May trial was scheduled Monday for a former school bus driver from Two Harbors who was found not guilty of molesting three preteen girls but whose case remained alive when jurors were unable to reach verdicts on whether he sexually assaulted two other girls on the bus.
By: Forum Newspapers, Lake County News Chronicle
A May trial was scheduled Monday for a former school bus driver from Two Harbors who was found not guilty of molesting three preteen girls but whose case remained alive when jurors were unable to reach verdicts on whether he sexually assaulted two other girls on the bus.
St. Louis County prosecutor Nathaniel Stumme said a final decision on whether the county attorney’s office will dismiss the charges against 64-year-old Jimmy James or take the case to another jury hasn’t been decided. James was acquitted of three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Stumme said his office has talked to law enforcement officers and jurors from James’ November trial in trying to decide whether to retry him on the two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct that jurors were unable to reach unanimous verdicts on.
“The decision on what to do when a jury has a hung verdict is a complicated and sometimes agonizing decision to have to make,” Stumme said outside the courtroom after the hearing. “Of course you always want to do justice in a case and sometimes doing justice as far as innocence and guilt has to take into consideration the heavy toll that the trial process can have on the victims and witnesses.”
Judge David Johnson scheduled a pretrial hearing for April 9. Stumme said he expects his office to have a decision on whether to retry or dismiss the case before then. If it goes to trial, it will start on May. 1.
James said he hasn’t speculated on whether the charges against him would be dismissed or if he would be retried. He accepted Monday’s news unemotionally and with patience.
“I’m not necessarily disappointed,” he said outside the St. Louis County courtroom. “I’m learning how the court system works. It’s a hurry up and wait. You hurry up and wait for an answer. Today, we got another answer and hopefully there is an answer down the road.
“My Christian faith is carrying me through here and it will carry me through the whole works of it. I still maintain my innocence. I’m maintaining that I didn’t do it. I guess the other side of it is people have been praying and I’ve been praying and whatever happens will be in the Lord’s hands. That’s the way it goes.”
James, the father of three and grandfather of seven, drove a school bus and worked as a school custodian for more than 38 years for the Lake Superior school district in Two Harbors. He was driving North Shore Community School students when the allegations against him were made. He has no criminal record.
At trial and during First Witness Child Abuse Resource Center videotaped interviews, the girls testified that James touched them in a sexual manner.
Seven character witnesses from the Two Harbors area, including his church pastor, testified in James’ behalf at trial. They said he was a man of good character who has helped others and they never saw him act inappropriately toward children.
Cloquet defense attorney Joanna Wiegert represented James at trial and stood by his side again Monday.
“It’s moving along. We keep moving it along,” she said