A former Canyons School District bus driver is "hurt" by accusations that he molested a 5-year-old Sandy girl over the span of three months because, his lawyer said Wednesday, he insists he is innocent.
"It would be hurtful to anybody to be charged with those offenses," defense attorney Richard Mauro told a gaggle of reporters outside a 3rd District Courtroom after his client’s brief first appearance on Wednesday.
John Martin Carrell, 61, was charged with 23 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child for alleged ongoing abuse of the girl from late February to late April, when the child mentioned the alleged abuse to a relative.
The accusations in connection with the 5-year-old girl, who attends Altara Elementary School in Sandy, have spurred a group of Draper parents to accuse the Canyons School District of neglecting the safety of other special needs students who were assigned to Carrell’s bus routes in Sandy and Draper.
The parents sent an open letter Tuesday to the school board, claiming the school district failed to mention the initial accusations to parents. The district also kept that information from Draper police, which delayed the onset of their investigation into Carrell, the letter states.
Parents claim the district disciplined an employee who alerted families that the bus driver was being investigated. A district spokesperson has said there is no record of any employee discipline related to Carrell’s case.
Carrell, a tall man with broad shoulders and thinning gray hair, who appeared Wednesday wearing a yellow jail jumpsuit and shackles around his wrists and ankles, has insisted the allegations against him are false.
"He’s maintaining his innocence," his defense attorney said. "Right now they’re just allegations. There’s a presumption of innocence that attaches to everybody, including Mr. Carrell, and I would hope that everybody will keep that in mind until we hear evidence in a courtroom."
Carrell resigned after he was put on administrative leave on April 24 in response to accusations that he abused students at Altara Elementary in Sandy.
Sandy police reviewed more than 40 hours of surveillance footage from three months of bus rides before submitting their case to prosecutors.
Mauro said he hasn’t seen the surveillance video, but noted that all evidence must be "tested" in court before any conclusions can be made about his client’s guilt.
Carrell declined Wednesday to have the charges against him read aloud in open court. He remains at the Salt Lake County jail in lieu of $3 million cash-only bail.
Mauro said it’s likely they will ask for a lesser bail at upcoming court hearings.
The defendant will next appear in a West Jordan courtroom before Judge Bruce Lubeck on June 30.
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