Former bus driver in child sex-assault case seeks to suppress evidence

By Samantha, Allen Foster's Daily Democrat
Posted Aug. 29, 2012, at 6:44 a.m.

A former bus driver charged with sexually assaulting young disabled boys who took his bus route, and distributing recordings of those assaults through an online child pornography network, is seeking to suppress evidence against him in federal court.

His defense attorney claims police did not have proper search warrants when they obtained those materials.

John Allen Wright, 46, previously of Milton, N.H., was arrested on Sept. 1, 2011, and charged with three counts of felonious sexual assault against three children in New Hampshire and Maine. He was also charged with approximately 20 other counts related to felonious acts, including indecent exposure and lewdness.

At the time of his arrest, Wright worked for Provider Bus Service as a Seacoast bus driver, servicing families with special needs children in both Dover and Kittery, Maine.

With the discovery of more than 15,000 images and movies depicting child sex abuse on the suspect’s computer as well, Wright was charged at the federal level with five counts of sexual exploitation of children and one count for possession of child pornography.

Indictments were issued against him in January.

In U.S. District Court in Concord, Wright’s defense attorney Harry Starbranch moved for a suppression motion, which Strafford County Attorney Tom Velardi said is “typically done” in child sex abuse cases. Starbranch has alleged police did not have enough probable cause against his client to pursue their search.

“The goal is to knock out the actual physical evidence of the case and leave the prosecution with no evidence,” Velardi explained.

U.S. Attorney John Kacavas confirmed a motion has come forward from the defense, though he could not disclose further proceedings in the case.

According to the district court, a judge has agreed to hear the defense’s argument for suppression on Sept. 11 at 1:30 p.m. A final pretrial conference has been scheduled for Wright on that day at 3:45 p.m. as well.

Velardi said his office will await the conclusion of the federal-level trial before pursuing charges at the state level. He said he suspects it could be months though before his office moves forward.

“When you’re waiting for the federal system, it’s really hard to tell but we are hopeful at the state level, we’ll be able to try this some time this calendar year or in early 2013,” he said.

Velardi added he is in communications with the U.S. Attorney’s office, and lead prosecutor Helen White Fitzgibbon, regarding proceedings of the trial in Concord. He noted Fitzgibbon is “one of the best” child sex abuse image prosecutors in the state.

Asked about the local victims and their thoughts on the waiting, he said the process has been explained to them.

“We have discussed that with the victims’ families and what the proprietary is in waiting at the state level while Mr. Wright remains incarcerated ¿ They certainly understand what that means,” he said. “¿ It’s several more months of waiting and seeing.”

Wright was arrested in September 2011 after an investigation by the state Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force began in February of that year. Kittery, Maine, and Dover police departments were investigating Wright as the case developed, with Kittery police issuing a warrant for Wright in September that charged him with two counts of gross sexual conduct with a minor.

Officials alleged he filmed himself having sexual contact with a local child while on his school bus. Dover police were said to be investigating two separate allegations at that time, involving Wright and his contact with children in the city.

Rochester Police Digital Forensic Analyst Kenneth Tapscott assisted in the investigation of Wright’s case and reported finding a file on the man’s computer labeled “bus,” among thousands of folders containing pornographic images.

Tapscott revealed previously in federal court the file held a number of videos he believed to be from Wright filming children on the bus with hidden cameras. Wright was identified in the videos by a figure-eight tattoo located at the base of his right thumb, according to court documents.

Documents, an affidavit and inventory regarding a Sept. 28, 2011 search at Wright’s home alleged Wright used a number of cameras hidden in pens and a pair of sunglasses to film encounters, both sexual and not, on his bus.

According to the Union Leader, prosecutors have alleged Wright’s assaults of two New Hampshire boys occurred between Nov. 1, 2010 and April 30, 2011. A third boy from Maine was allegedly assaulted between July 1, 2011 and July 31, 2011.

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©2012 the Foster’s Daily Democrat (Dover, N.H.)

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http://bangordailynews.com/2012/08/29/news/former-bus-driver-in-child-sex-assault-case-seeks-to-suppress-evidence/ printed on April 16, 2014