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Bus Driver Faces 11 Additional Counts

Crime: The charges stem from alleged assaults by suspect over 5-year span.

January 12, 2002|RICHARD WINTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An MTA bus driver already awaiting trial for allegedly molesting a 15-year-old boy aboard a bus will also be tried for allegedly sexually assaulting a police officer and his brother when they were minors two decades ago, a judge ruled Friday.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy-Powell said there was sufficient cause for Anthony Zaragoza to stand trial on 11 felony counts involving the brothers, whom he met while driving for a Montebello bus line.

Kennedy-Powell ordered that Zaragoza be held on $1-million bail pending his next court appearance Jan 25. Zaragoza has pleaded not guilty to the 11 counts, which include lewd conduct, sodomy and oral copulation. He also pleaded not guilty to molesting the 15-year-old boy he met on his bus last summer.

The officer and his brother, who were identified as John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 respectively in court, came forward after they saw a news report about Zaragoza last year.

As a 13-year-old in 1979, the officer, with his 11-year-old brother, met Zaragoza as he drove a Montebello transit bus they took back to their Pico Rivera home from a movie theater. Zaragoza became friends with the brothers' family and became their godfather. They sometimes stayed overnight at his home.

The officer testified that on one overnight stay, a naked Zaragoza, under the guise of showing how to put on a condom, forced the boy to touch the driver below the waist.

"In a stern voice he said, 'Touch it,' " the officer, now 35, testified. "I was scared. I trusted him." That same night, he said, the bus driver also asked him to put on a condom, an act he refused to do.

The officer testified that he never told anyone of the incident until August when he saw a television broadcast involving the charges against Zaragoza. He immediately called his brother, then contacted the Los Angeles police.

His younger brother testified that he was molested by Zaragoza the first day they met, in April 1979, and "every time I'd seen him." Often teary-eyed on the witness stand, he recalled details of at least eight incidents that began the night he met the driver.

"It happened a lot of times after that . . . till I was 16 years old," John Doe 2 said.

He testified that Zaragoza molested him in a bathroom at the Montebello transit station, the boys' home in Pico Rivera, a U-Haul lock-up and a Motel 6 in Whittier.

John Doe 2 said he finally revealed the incidents to his family in 1987. At the time, he said, keeping it all bottled up had made his life unbearable. He said he had lost his job, lost his girlfriend and was contemplating suicide.

Mother, Son Shared Secrets

Finally, when he talked to his mother about his confusion and pain, she revealed a secret too. He said, "My mom said to me she was molested as a child. And I said so was I."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Christina Weiss brought the prosecution under a state statute that allows old incidents to be tried where there is independent corroborating evidence.

That evidence, prosecutors say, was captured in June when Zaragoza allegedly tried to molest the 15-year-old, who happened to be carrying a video camera while he rode Zaragoza's bus.

With the camera pointing down, the boy pressed the "on" button when Zaragoza approached him. Los Angeles Police Det. Raymond Conboy testified that Zaragoza is heard on tape trying to persuade the boy to engage in sex, saying he had done it with boys before.

Zaragoza, 49, was placed on unpaid leave by the MTA after his arrest last year.

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