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Victim's attorney singles out school bus driver

ST. PETERSBURG — A lawyer representing the family of a girl who officials say was sexually assaulted on a school bus last week said Saturday that more could have been done to prevent the attack.

Attorney Paul Kimsey said Tuesday's incident on a Dixie Hollins High School bus was a sexual attack by an adult on a child, contradicting the suspect's mother, who on Friday called it a "misunderstanding.".

Kimsey took aim at the Pinellas County School District by singling out the bus driver, whom he didn't name but said should have stayed with the bus.

Kimsey also suggested that the driver had lax oversight of his bus, allowing students to ride home in their boxer shorts.

According to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, the driver left the bus to round up students who stay late for after-school activities. Branden Allen, 18, got on the empty bus, followed by the victim and two younger male students.

While the boys acted as lookouts, Allen sexually battered the girl, deputies say.

Allen, a junior who has played varsity football at the school, was arrested Thursday on sexual battery and false imprisonment charges and released early Saturday morning. The other male students were charged as principals to the crimes.

Allen's mother, Trina Allen, downplayed the incident Friday after a court appearance.

"Honestly, all of this from what he (her son) is telling me is a big misunderstanding," she told the media, including Bay News 9. "I think horseplaying went a little too far."

Kimsey said he felt compelled to respond on behalf of the girl, who he says wants a transfer so she doesn't return to school. According to him, the girl was starting to pull out a book to read when Allen, whom she didn't know, assaulted her. Video will substantiate the girl's version of events, he said.

Kimsey is studying school policy to see if the bus driver behaved inappropriately.

Reached at home Saturday, Pinellas County Schools spokeswoman Andrea Zahn said she couldn't comment on Kimsey's allegations because she didn't have access to information that could address the claims. She said that all aspects of the incident are under investigation.

Lucas Fleming, who represents Allen, said Kimsey's description of the age difference between his client and the girl is a "mischaracterization." Although the age difference could mean a charge of lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor even if the activity was consensual. Fleming noted that the girl, a freshman, and Allen, a junior, are only two grades apart.

"Certainly the emotional maturity I think would be very similar between the two of them," said Fleming.

Fleming said he wants the charges to be dropped. He said he's investigating all aspects of the case, including the girl's credibility.

Stephanie Garry can be reached at (727) 892-2374 or sgarry@sptimes.com.

Victim's attorney singles out school bus driver 05/10/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 14, 2008 3:30pm]
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