The possibility of more children coming forward isn’t guaranteed to strengthen the case against a former Durham School Services bus driver accused of groping two West Ashley girls.
The driver, 47-year-old Macneil Deas of S.C. Highway 174 in Adams Run, is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and one count of assault and battery in the two separate cases, State Law Enforcement Division records show.
Deas’ December arrest followed accusations that he groped a 12-year-old West Ashley girl on two occasions. The girl’s mother told police that Deas brushed his hand across her daughter’s chest in 2011 and squeezed the girl’s buttocks as she was getting off the bus in early October.
A second student, this time a 7-year-old girl, reported a similar story in December, police said.
Generally speaking, 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said whether multiple child sexual assault victims will have an effect on a criminal trial depends on a number of factors, including how similar the cases are to one another and how close in time the alleged crimes took place. Whether a judge allowed prosecutors to try the cases together would also be a factor, she said.
“We always encourage victims of any assault to come forward so that we can work with law enforcement to determine if we have a prosecutable case. Sometimes, the strength of our cases improve when there are multiple charges, but this is not always the case,” Wilson said.
Multiple charges do expose defendants to greater punishment, she said.
Whether a letter mailed Friday by the Charleston County School District will prompt more students to come forward remains to be seen.
Charleston police spokesman Charles Francis said the department hasn’t received any new complaints against Deas since the letter was sent.
The letter, which was signed by district Superintendent Nancy McGinley, pointed concerned parents toward the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children’s Center for guidance from trained officials.
If they aren’t doing so already, parents should establish an open dialogue with their children so that they’ll feel comfortable communicating when such situations arise, Clinical Services Director Don Elsey said.
Parents are sometimes tempted to make a potentially difficult conversation easier by simply telling their children not to let anyone touch them. But that approach could make children feel like they did something wrong if they are abused, Elsey said.
“Open dialogue goes a lot smoother when parents tell their children, ‘If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, come tell me and I’ll take it from there,’ ” Elsey said.
The Children’s Center receives numerous calls from concerned adults daily. Some of those calls are to report abuse, and others are mere inquiries, Elsey said. The center hasn’t received any calls specific to the Deas case since the district’s letter was sent, he said.
The letter, which was sent four months after Deas was arrested, shied away from the specifics of the case. It didn’t mention Deas by name, but it does cite the bus he drove — No. 616.
The school district, which hired Durham to employ bus drivers and manage bus routes, spent several days last week insisting that it didn’t have knowledge of who rode on Deas’ bus in past years. District officials said that they do, however, keep track of who is on each bus during the current school year and that they are in the process of developing a more efficient database.
The public defender representing Deas did not return phone calls on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.