After almost three days of testimony and just one hour of deliberation, an Ozaukee County jury on Wednesday found former Port Washington bus driver Randy Mayer guilty of inappropriately touching students on his route.
Mayer, 225 S. Madison Ave., was convicted of all of first-degree sexual assault of a child under the age of 13, and faces up to 240 years in prison. The trial involved three children.
"I watched all of you as the trial progressed, and all of you were very attentive," Circuit Court Judge Sandy Williams told the jury after the verdict was read.
Family members of the victims left the coutroom in silence, but emotions showed oustide the hallway as a few of the attendees shed tears.
Mayer sat quietly and showed little emotion while being found guilty, but began shaking his head "no" as the verdicts rolled out. A witness who had identified herself as a friend of Mayer's during the trial shed some tears in her bench seat before leaving the courtroom.
In closing statements, District Attorney Adam Gerol asked the jury to strongly consider the behaviors of children when looking back on each of the alleged victim's testimony, hoping to sidestep some confusion that came up regarding the boys' stories.
When interviewing the alleged 6-year-old victim, 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. But in earlier video testimony with a social worker, the boy had said he was touched once above his shorts.
Another one of the victims had initially told his mother that he had been touched four times, but dropped his story to a consistent one time every time he had been questioned since.
"You've been presented with at least four — perhaps more — accounts of what happened," Gerol said. "Remember, these were very little children. It's a pretty big thing to remember that their bus driver touched their penis. ... Don't deny the evidence of your own eyes."
Penkwitz and defense attorney Gerald Boyle represented Mayer 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 would now decide to act out on an alleged sexual fantasy.
- Read: Patch covered the trial since it began on Monday morning.
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.
Mayer was with three felony counts involving two boys; the when another boy came forward. .
The first three charges involved incidents with two boys, 9 and 10 years old, which took place between Oct. 1 and 13, 2011. Details from the criminal complaint filed with the Port Washington Police Department . The fourth charge, with allegations similar to the other cases, involved a 6-year-old boy.
Three alleged victims take the stand
The allegations involved three boys under the age of 13, all students that at one time rode on Mayer's bus route. Each boy participated in a videotaped interview with Amanda Didier from Child Protective Services at the Children's Hospital in Milwaukee; that footage was played in the courtroom — but all three boys also took the stand.
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 his videotaped interview at Child Protective Services he 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 6-year-old boy 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.
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.
Bus driver explains his side
Defendant Randy Mayer consisently denied all the allegations against him while on the stand, saying that he had never touched the private areas of the three boys.
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 is expected to appear in court for sentencing at 3 p.m. July 9.