A New Jersey school bus driver accused of sexually assaulting two young female students during daily games of "hide and seek" on the bus will remain jailed pending his trial, a judge has ruled.
The decision came Monday after Morris County prosecutors claimed Thomas Thomasevich, 70, of Oakland, had groomed the children to be cooperative and play the game, and also manipulated them to be silent. His lawyer had argued his client should be freed, citing his “spotless” record and family ties to the area, and described the allegations against Thomasevich as a “huge misunderstanding.”
Thomasevich has pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual assault, two counts of child endangerment and six counts of cruelty and neglect of children.
The sexual assaults began last October and continued almost daily until one of the girls spoke with guidance counselors on Jan. 17, authorities have said. The girls were under the age of 13 and attended school in Kinnelon.
Thomasevich would park at the school and allow the children to play “hide and seek,” authorities said. He arrived at the school early enough that the students remained on the parked bus, authorities said, and used the opportunity to commit the assaults. Thomasevich also bribed the girls with candy and doughnuts so they would not reveal what was happening, authorities said.
First Student Bus Co. of Butler, which employed him as a driver, previously said it was cooperating with the investigation and conducting its own internal review.
"Consistent with our standard process, the driver was immediately removed from service pending the outcome of the investigation. Given that this is an active investigation, we are unable to comment further," the company said in a statement.