MERCED -- A former school bus driver accused of inappropriate conduct with a 17-year-old high school student was spared jail this week after reaching a deal with the prosecution.
Efrain Orozco, 58, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor solicitation of a prostitute Wednesday. He was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to stay away from the victim, according to Deputy District Attorney Monika Saini, the prosecutor in the case.
Orozco had been charged with one count of felony attempted unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, which could have resulted in a maximum of 18 months behind bars, if convicted.
In the plea agreement, the prosecution considered that Orozco had no prior convictions. In addition, the victim admitted she didn't disclose her age to Orozco. She also admitted receiving money for sex, Saini said. "Based on that information, we thought this was the appropriate charge and disposition," she said.
Under questioning from police, Orozco claimed the girl told him she was 23 and was going to school to get her GED. Saini said the victim claimed that as far as she knew, Orozco didn't know she was underage.
Jeffrey Tenenbaum, Orozco's attorney, said the case's outcome was fair. "Mr. Orozco is embarrassed by what happened here and just wants to put it behind him," Tenenbaum said. "He's just trying to find work and trying to move on with his life."
Orozco 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 Sept. 11 incident.
According to the police report, about 4 p.m. Sept. 11, an officer saw a tan four-door Ford parked in an alley and two people sitting in the back seat.
As he approached, the officer said, Orozco exited the left-rear passenger door. The officer looked inside the car and recognized a girl who attends an area high school where he had been assigned.
The girl claimed she met with Orozco, the report said, and agreed to have sex with him for $20.
The girl was arrested on suspicion of prostitution, according to the report. Police said the girl was carrying $1,500 inside her wallet, money she admitted making from prostitution.
The misdemeanor charge does not require Orozco to register as a convicted sex offender, Saini said.
City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.