Pace bus driver sexually assaulted woman with cerebral palsy on bus: prosecutors

SHARE Pace bus driver sexually assaulted woman with cerebral palsy on bus: prosecutors

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A suburban Pace bus driver has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman with cerebral palsy at least twice in January on a bus in Oak Park.

Burnell Johnson, 60, was charged with three counts of criminal sexual assault and two counts of sexual abuse, all felonies, according to Cook County court documents.

Burnell Johnson | Cook County Sheriff’s Office

Burnell Johnson | Cook County Sheriff’s Office

The 33-year-old woman is visually impaired, has cerebral palsy and effectively functions as a 6-year-old girl, prosecutors said at Johnson’s initial court appearance Saturday.

She used to ride the Pace bus driven by Johnson to and from a cerebral palsy treatment center, where she took part in adult programming. Over a two-week span, Johnson spent time getting to know the woman, who eventually exchanged phone numbers with him, prosecutors said.

Johnson told her to send him nude photos of herself then delete the messages off her phone, and not to tell anyone about their interactions, prosecutors said.

On Jan. 10, Johnson waited until the woman was the only person left on the bus, then drove to an off-route location in Oak Park, where he sexually assaulted the woman on the bus, according to prosecutors, who said the woman wasn’t able to consent because of her mental capacity.

Johnson assaulted the woman on the bus at least one more time, prosecutors said.

At the end of January, the woman told an employee at the treatment center that she thought she mistakenly sent nude photos to the wrong person, prosecutors said. The employee asked her who she meant to send them to, and she identified Johnson.

He was arrested on Feb. 23 but released without charges. Johnson was arrested again Friday and charged with the assaults.

Reviews of an onboard camera showed Johnson covering the camera with a hat when he stopped the bus in Oak Park, prosecutors said. It blocked the view, but Johnson could be heard on at least one occasion making sexually explicit comments, prosecutors said.

A Pace spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

Johnson, of Forest Park, was ordered held without bail ahead of his next court appearance on Tuesday.

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