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Bus Driver Accused of Raping 2 Passengers on O.C. Route

The alleged victims are mentally disabled women. The suspect, who had been a contract worker for the transit agency, is in jail.

May 08, 2003|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

An Orange County Transportation Authority contract driver was arrested Wednesday, accused of sexually assaulting two mentally disabled passengers in his bus, including one who uses a wheelchair.

Daniel Carlos Porras, 39, is facing two felony counts of rape and sodomy and three misdemeanor counts of inflicting injury on a dependent adult and fondling one of the women, whose ages are 42 and 27, said Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino. Authorities did not identify the alleged victims, who Amormino said have the mental capacity of children.

According to a complaint unsealed Wednesday in Superior Court, the alleged attacks occurred between Jan. 6 and Jan. 14. However, Amormino said investigators believe there may be other victims, and the investigation is continuing.

Porras, of Anaheim, is being held in Orange County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bail.

He worked for Laidlaw Transit Services, which has a contract with OCTA to provide door-to-door bus service for the disabled in Orange County. Amormino said Porras drove 10 disabled adults home from jobs in the afternoons.

Laidlaw general manager Jim Byrne said Porras worked at the company for 13 months, until Feb. 7, one month after the first assault allegedly occurred. Byrne refused to say if Porras resigned or was fired after authorities began an investigation in January.

Byrne released a statement saying company officials cooperated with the sheriff's investigation and said the "safety and welfare of our passengers" is the company's main concern. He said Porras had passed background investigations before he was hired.

The 42-year-old victim, a Buena Park resident, told relatives of the alleged rape in January. This prompted authorities to question each of Porras' passengers. They learned of the second alleged victim, who lives in Anaheim and uses a wheelchair, from the other interviews.

"The second victim hadn't told the family what happened until our investigators talked to her. It's a sad thing, because both victims are trusting. They viewed Porras as an authority figure, and he grossly abused his authority and the trust they had in him," said Amormino.

The complaint filed by prosecutors said the victims were "incapable of giving legal consent [to having sex with Porras] because of a mental disorder and because of developmental and physical disability."

Two other Southern California bus drivers have been charged in recent years with sexually assaulting passengers. Last year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority settled a lawsuit filed by a San Dimas woman who was raped in 2001 by driver Leonard Henry Howell. The victim received $1.95 million from the MTA.

Anthony Zaragoza, another MTA driver, pleaded guilty last year to molesting a 15-year-old boy on his bus in 2001. He also confessed to molesting other boys he met on his route.

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