UPDATED: Jury Deliberations Begin in Port Bus Driver's Trial
The jury trial for Randy R. Mayer, who faces four felony counts of sexual assault of a child under the age of 13, will extend an extra day — with a verdict expected on Wednesday.
Editor's note: Patch will provide coverage of the the trial for Randy Mayer, the bus driver charged with inappropriately touching students on his route, which is set to last Monday and Tuesday. Check back to this article for updates.
11 a.m. Wednesday
A few quick witnesses took the stand on Wednesday morning to help judge the credibility of defendant Randy Mayer before the attorneys continued on to their closing statements.
Mayer has been represented by attorneys Michael Penkwitz and Gerald Boyle throughout the course of the trial. Boyle gave the closing statement for the defense, and said it is absurd to believe that a man, who has been driving a bus for 35 years, now decides to act out on an alleged sexual fantasy.
On top of that, Boyle said, it is ridiculous that what was been described as one to two seconds of touching in an almost-accidental swiping motion would be considered sexual assault.
"That's crazy. But that's the kind of proof we bring into a courtroom to accuse a person of such serious crimes," Boyle said.
But District Attorney Adam Gerol was quick to remind the jury that testimony provided by the children are the facts as presented in the case.
"All of you in your personal life had to make important decisions ... and whenever you make a big decision like that, there's always that leap of faith," he said. "If the facts ... are strong enough that in your heart and conscience (they are proof), you must find him guilty."
5:30 p.m. Tuesday
After eight hours of testimony on Tuesday, Judge Sandy Williams decided to let the jury call it quits and come back again on Wednesday morning.
Defendant Randy Mayer was the last person called to the stand, and he consisently denied all the allegations against him that he had ever touched the private areas of three boys under the age of 13.
Mayer instead only admitted to touching the boys on their heads and once on the shoulder while talking to them because they had been misbehaving on the bus.
Mayer admitted to holding these discussions with the boys while they were seated on what has been called the "doghouse," "naughty seat," or "bad seat," by victims and other witnesses; Mayer said he has only referenced it as the "timeout seat." This seat is a hump next to the drivers' seat on the bus.
The discussions with misbehaving students, Mayer said, are part of his personally-developed 3-step protocol for dealing with discipline issues on the bus.
"The protocol that I developed over the years was one-to-one talking with the student," Mayer said, adding that he allowed each student three verbal warnings and three discussions — and if problems persisted he would assign seats. If problems continued after that, he would follow Johnson Company's formal process of getting management involved and writing the student up.
Mayer said the three boys that accuse him of touching them on their genitals were all brought to the front "timeout seat," because of behavioral problems. He didn't believe having the children sit in that seat was dangerous because of his driving habits.
"I move so slow ... unless they move towards the stairwell," it wouldn't be dangerous, he said.
While all of the alleged victims say they had only seen boys on the "naughty seat," Mayer said the area had been used to hold discussions with children of both genders — and, in fact, named a few girls in particular who had been on the seat.
Mayer also agreed with co-worker and witness Donn Brown, saying that driving the bus requires a lot of attention to both pay attention to the kids and the road while also managing the large steering wheel.
"You learn over the years to develop and ear for the back — it's amazing what you can hear," Brown said.
Mayer has been a bus driver for 35 years and said it took time to get used to making turns with the bus as well as watching the children. He also has experience working with and teaching marching bands, work that he said has taught him to use one-on-one teaching techniques with youth, and often requires physical touching to teach a variety of manuevers.
2:30 p.m. Tuesday
Things got heated in the first half of the afternoon trial session as District Attorney Adam Gerol and Mayer's attorneys argued the relevance of a number of issues, including complaints from a co-worker about Mayer's behavior toward him — something that had been described as "handsy."
Port Washington police officer Kristin Moertl took the stand, answering a variety of questions about her interviews with the alleged victims as well as other students on the bus.
The jury was dismissed from the courtroom so that the judge could work through the disagreements, and court was dismissed for a 5-minute break.
The defense witnesses should take the stand soon.
Joyce Buchholz, a manager at Johnson Bus Company, spent quite some time on the stand late Tuesday morning answering questions regarding Mayer's behavior as an employee and bus driver.
District Attorney Adam Gerol asked Buchholz about personality conflicts between Mayer and some of the kids and their parents, as well as conflicts with co-workers, some of which resulted in route switches.
Buchholz also confirmed for Gerol four different dates in which she confronted Mayer about contact with children — such as high fives or a pat on the back side — that needed to stop; the incidents dated back to 2008.
Buchholz also said that Mayer has a temper and gets angry easily.
The next witness to take the stand was Amanda Didier, a social worker and forensic interviewer with Child Protective Services at the Children's Hospital in Milwaukee. Didier explained her training and the interviewing techniques used when speaking with each of the three alleged victims.
Known as Stepwise Guidelines, these are techniques she has used with the hundreds of children she has interviewed in connection with possible abuse allegations.
Much of Didier's testimony also focused on a concept called "Grooming," which refers to the process and techniques a sex offender might use to gain access to and trust of the child, while also reducing the chance that the abuse is discovered or that the child will tattle.
"The theory behind grooming is that it's paving the way for (escalated abuse)," she said. Examples included "secret" candy or other little gifts given to the children, as well as touching, tickling and wrestling. General touching of the children will start as a way to desenstize the child to being touched, Didier said, until it eventually could move to sexual touching.
Court will resume at 1:10 p.m. Mayer is expected to take the stand before the trial concludes.
10:30 a.m. Tuesday
Three more witnesses have taken the stand to kick off the second day of Mayer's trial, including the third alleged victim — a 6-year-old boy — and his mom.
The 6-year-old had been on Mayer's bus route while attending summer school courses. His mom had been concerned about bowel problems that the boy was having, and made Mayer aware of her concerns.
The boy said Mayer allowed him to sit up on the "bad seat" even though he wasn't "bad" because of his stomach issues. In court, the boy demonstrated the hand swipe motion that Mayer used when he touched the boy's "privates," contact that the boy said lasted about one second.
In cross-examination, some confusion came up regarding the boy's story: Mayer's attorney, Michael Penkwitz, asked the boy how many times he was touched; the boy answered two. Penkwitz asked if he was touched above or below the shorts; the boy answered below. In video testimony with social worker Amanda Didier from Child Protective Services at the Children's Hospital in Milwaukee, the boy had said he was touched once above his shorts.
But with the confusion came frustrated sighs from the audience, and a reminder from Judge Sandy Williams that the boy is just 6 years old.
Next on the stand was Joyce Buchholz, manager at Johnson Bus Company. Buchholz said she has known Mayer for 35 years, and before that knew his mother, who also worked at the bus company.
She spoke about the day that Mayer was suspended from the company, Oct. 13, after learning about Mayer sitting children on the "doghouse" seat next to the driver. At that time, no word of inappropriate touching had been mentioned.
"Nobody is supposed to be sitting up there ... because it's against the law, it's unsafe," she said, adding that someone could fall out the door.
Buchholz also said, however, that Mayer was the driver that she would often go to when having disciplinary problems on the bus.
"A lot of times I'd put him on routes that are having discipline problems because he was more strict than the other drivers," she said. The company has safety meetings to discuss such discipline issues, and its official policy would be for a driver to write up a problem student so that a principal would know about the issue and have the authority to make the final call — possibly removing the student from the bus.
Buchholz said Mayer had complained about discipline problems with one of the children who is an alleged victim, but she could not recall how many times and a former complaint was never written.
She also recalled complaints from parents against Mayer; Mayer had been high-fiving students, and parents complained about such contact and he was told to stop.
5:30 p.m. Monday
Two final witnesses took the stand on Monday before Mayer's trial wrapped up for the day, including another mother and 9-year-old alleged victim.
The 9-year-old boy told the courts that the first time Mayer touched him on the penis, over the clothes, he thought it was an accident. The second time, however, the boy felt like the touch was actually on purpose.
In an videotaped interview with social worker Amanda Didier from Child Protective Services at the Children's Hospital in Milwaukee, the boy told officials that the experience has left him traumatized.
"Sometimes at night I get scared that he's going to hurt me ... Will he ever come anywhere near me again?" he asked Didier at the end of the interivew.
The boy's mother confirmed that he has had countless nightmares since the incident happened. She also said behavioral changes and an accusation and confrontation with Mayer led her to learn about the inappropriate touching.
The boy also mentioned candy that Mayer would give to him and then tell him to keep it a secret; in one such incident, the boy's sister saw Mayer give him candy and asked for some, but Mayer said no. In his opening statement, District Attorney Adam Gerol called such secrets a behavior typically practiced by sexual predators.
The boy said Mayer would call him up to sit on the hump next to the bus driver's seat when he was misbehaving; Mayer also told the boy he could come to the front of the bus when he was bored to punch paper using a hole punch — which the boy said he did sometimes. He said Mayer had called other boys to the front, but never girls — just as the first victim witness, a 10-year-old boy, had described.
Court is scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
3:30 p.m. Monday
Two witnesses have taken the stand so far in the trial against Mayer, including one of the boys who is an alleged victim.
The 10-year-old boy said that Mayer called him up to the box near the bus driver's seat "many times" between September and October last year, tickling him on the ears, shoulders, belly and thighs while he either stood or sat next to him.
The testimony also included an explanation as to how all the charges came to be: the boy's sister — who rides the bus occasionally — first learned from a friend that kids were being called up to the front of the bus. The next day, she rode the bus and witnessed her brother being called to the front. That night, she told her parents she was afraid for his safety.
The boy's mother told the courts that after learning about the issue from their daughter, they told Johnson Company what they had learned and also found Mayer at his place of employment — where they both also work. In talking with Mayer, their intention was to ask him to let them know when their son was being "naughty" rather than "punishing" him by calling him to the front. That night, they talked to their son, who revealed that he had been touched on his "privates." His parents immediately called the police, who gathered the details.
With the police there, "we were also hearing for the first time what had transpired on the bus," the mother told the courts.
The boy told the courts on Monday that all except one boy had been called to the front, and that none of the girls ever had to sit in the "naughty seat."
12:30 p.m. Monday
District Attorney Adam Gerol and Mayer's Attorney Michael Penkwitz are both banking on the facts supporting their side of the case in what both attorneys referred to as a trial that will require "old-fashioned" judgment.
With no DNA or other scientific evidence, the case will be based strongly on videotaped testimony from the children involved as well as a few other key officials.
"We're going to actually prove that four crimes were committed," Gerol said in his opening statement to jurors. "Maybe the best way to give you the opening statement is to tell you how this all came to our attention in the first place."
Gerol then explained the series of events that lead to Mayer being fired from his position as a bus driver for Johnson Company; he was eventually arrested and has been held in Ozaukee County Courthouse unable to make bail.
There are three boys under the age of 13 involved in the case; each was interviewed extensively at Children's Hospital shortly after coming forward about the allegations, Gerol said.
"It was important to preserve what they had to say and what they remembered as quickly as possible," he said.
But Penkwitz said he has facts that will show that what the children are accusing Mayer of doing wouldn't be possible in his position.
"It would be very difficult to take a hand off the wheel (while driving the bus)," Penwitz said. "I believe that the evidence will show that it is very, very difficult for a bus driver to reach over ... and not crash the bus."
The victims have said that Mayer called the boys to sit in the "bad seat" — an area next to the driver's seat of the bus and also referred to as the "dog house — when the touching occurred.
10 a.m. Monday
About 50 potential jurors filtered into the courtroom shortly after 8:30 a.m. Monday as the trial for Randy Mayer, the bus driver charged with inappropriately touching students on his route, prepared to start.
The jury was reduced to 13 members after each side of the case was allowed to ask a series of questions in order to eliminate biases that could alter the outcome. District Attorney Adam Gerol and Mayer's attorney, Michael Penkwitz, spent about an hour asking the jurors questions relating to possible relationships with either attorney, the defendant, children or family affected by sexual assault and more.
The trial — related to four felony counts involving three children — is set to last through Tuesday.
Mayer, 225 S. Madison Ave., is charged with four felony counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child under the age of 13, and faces up to 240 years in prison. He was initially charged on Dec. 7 with three felony counts involving two boys; the fourth charge came about a week later when another boy came forward. Mayer entered a 'not guilty' plea on Jan. 3.
Mayer had initially posted a $2,500 bond in connection with the first three charges, but remains in custody after a $10,000 cash bond was set in connection with his fourth felony charge.
The first three charges involved incidents with two boys, 9 and 10 years old, which took place between Oct. 1 and 13, 2011. The Port Washington Police Department interviewed 37 students about the allegations, said former Police Chief Richard Thomas. Details from the criminal complaint describe the allegations. The fourth charge, with allegations similar to the other cases, involved a 6-year-old boy.