A former Lodi Unified School District bus driver accused of sexually assaulting an eight-year-old special needs student pleaded not guilty Monday to six counts of sexual assault.
Richard Evans, 59, appeared in San Joaquin Superior Court, where his attorney also requested that media be barred from the proceedings and a gag order be put in place, prohibiting the parties involved from speaking publicly about the case. Judge Franklin Stephenson denied both requests.
Evans’ counsel, county Deputy Public Defender Christian Steiner, argued Monday that because of considerable media attention on the case, it would be difficult to find a fair and impartial jury without excluding the media and instituting a gag order. San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Kristine Reed argued against both, and Stephenson ruled against Steiner’s motions.
Steiner also disputed the designation of the female victim as a special needs student, a fact widely reported among the media. But Reed said the victim was developmentally delayed, and therefore it was appropriate to refer to her as a special needs student.
Lodi resident Evans allegedly molested the victim on two separate occasions aboard a Lodi Unified bus he was driving, and Reed said at least one of the incidents was caught on tape. Evans was arrested Nov. 4 after the victim communicated the alleged molestation to her parents. Reed said both incidents occurred within a two-week span, the first in late October and the second on Nov. 2.
Evans, a Lodi High School graduate, was a full-time bus driver for Lodi Unified from 2004-07. He was serving as an on-call substitute driver at the time of the incident, and both alleged assaults occurred on bus routes he was covering.
He also operated a driving school in Lodi for several years until it was closed earlier this year.
Evans will next appear in court for a pre-preliminary hearing Jan. 3.
Contact reporter Fernando Gallo at fernando@lodinews. com.