A former Bibb County school bus driver is on trial this week, charged with child molestation after he kissed a special-needs student on his bus nearly three years ago.
Witnesses say the 14-year-old Howard Middle School student, who is autistic, told a teacher about the kiss after arriving at school March 3, 2014. School administrators then alerted her mother and police.
Ellis Tyrone Hogges Jr., 54, was interviewed by investigators twice before his arrest about two weeks after the incident.
During their testimony in Bibb Superior Court on Tuesday, the investigators read aloud transcripts from the interviews.
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In his interviews, Hogges admitted kissing the girl, but said it was on her cheek. Other witnesses testified the girl told them the kiss was at least partially on her mouth.
At the time of the kiss, the bus was stopped outside Howard High School, dropping off students before heading to the neighboring middle school, former Bibb schools police commander Ronald Rodgers testified.
Video from the bus shows a woman helping a boy in a wheelchair get off the bus, leaving Hogges, the girl and at least one other student on board.
Hogges is shown walking to where the girl was seated, cupping her chin in his hand and leaning toward her.
Jurors watched a video of the girl’s statement to authorities.
She said the kiss happened on her birthday.
The bus driver said “happy,” kissed her and said “birthday” as he pulled away, the girl told her interviewer.
She said she thought Hogges had “a crush on her” and that he had caressed her face on previous occasions.
Hogges, who did not testify, admitted in his statements to police that the kiss was inappropriate and said he had touched the girl’s face when she’d said she wasn’t feeling well.
The defense argued in a pre-trial motion that the kiss lasted about a second.
The indictment in the case alleges the kiss was an “immoral and indecent act” that Hogges performed to “arouse and satisfy” his sexual desires.
Hogges was fired on the day after the kiss, according to the school district.
He told police he’d been a school bus driver for Bibb schools for eight years, driving special-needs students for about half the time he was employed.
Closing arguments are set for Thursday.