Merced — A 58-year-old school former bus driver pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Merced County Superior Court over accusations of inappropriate conduct with a 17-year-old high school student.
Efrain Orozco is charged with one count of felony attempted unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor -- a charge which could mean up to 18 months behind bars, if he is convicted.
Orozco, who's free on bail, agreed during the brief hearing in Judge Frank Dougherty's courtroom to stay away from the 17-year-old, according to his attorney, Jeffrey Tenenbaum.
The defendant had been a bus driver with First Student School Bus Transportation Services, a private company that has a contract with the Merced County Office of Education. He was fired after the alleged Sept. 11 incident.
Tenenbaum said he couldn't elaborate about the case Tuesday, saying he's reviewing the reports regarding his client. "For right now we're just doing our own investigation and finding out what exactly happened," Tenenbaum said.
He added that his client has no prior record.
According to the police report, around 4 p.m. Sept. 11, an officer saw a tan four-door Ford parked in an alley. The officer got out of his car and saw two people sitting in the back seat.
As the officer approached, he said, the defendant exited the left-rear passenger door. The officer looked in the back seat and recognized a girl who attends an area high school where he'd been assigned.
The girl told police she had been a passenger on Orozco's bus, and he asked for her phone number. The girl said she gave it to him before her stop. After she got home, Orozco called, and they made arrangements to meet in the alley.
The girl claims she met with Orozco, the report said, and she agreed to have sex with him for $20.
Police said in the report that the girl was arrested on suspicion of prostitution. Police said the girl was carrying $1,500 inside her wallet -- money she admitted that she made from prostitution. The girl said it took her six months to save the money, which she planned to use to buy a car.
Police have obtained video surveillance footage from the bus Orozco was driving. The footage shows Orozco speaking to the girl in Spanish. The footage appears to show the girl giving her phone number to Orozco in Spanish and then writing it down on something on the dash.
Under questioning by police, Orozco claimed the girl told him she was 23 years old and was only going to school to get her GED. He told police he'd been sitting in the car with the girl for about four minutes when the officer arrived at the scene.
Orozco told police he exchanged one kiss with the girl, but nothing else had happened. He acknowledged being a bus driver for a high school, but denied knowing the ages of the students.
He also told the police that he's married with one child, according to the report.
City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.