An Orland man will spend at least one year in prison after pleading guilty to charges that he raped and assaulted a Stonington woman who was a special-needs passenger on a bus he was driving.
Van Stevens, 49, pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of gross sexual assault and aggravated assault, according to documents filed at Hancock County Unified Criminal Court in Ellsworth. He received an overall prison term of five years with all but one year suspended.
Stevens, who was working as a bus driver for a nonprofit community support agency, raped the woman on a bus in Stonington in February 2018 after he had dropped off his other passengers. The incident came to light weeks later after Stevens drove his pickup truck to her house, ostensibly to give her a ride to Bangor, but was told by the woman’s mother that she could not go, according to court documents.
The mother found out about the sexual assault after questioning her daughter about why Stevens would show up at their house, according to court documents.
The gross sexual assault charge is a class C felony, which was filed in the case because Stevens’ employer at the time was funded by Maine Department of Health and Human Services, and because Stevens reasonably was expected to have known the victim is mentally disabled. As a result, any sexual contact between him and the victim, even if it could be argued to have been consensual, is considered at least a class C felony under state law.
As part of a plea deal with the Hancock County District Attorney’s office, a more serious class A gross sexual assault charge filed against Stevens was dismissed and replaced with the aggravated assault charge, which is a class B offense.
Class B offenses carry up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, while class C offenses carry up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Matthew Foster, district attorney for Hancock County, said Friday that his office struck a plea deal with Stevens as part of the wishes of the victim’s family.
“I am pleased that we were able to come to an appropriate resolution that avoided the necessity of having the victim have to re-live the events at a trial, that appropriately punishes the defendant for his actions, and that will protect the community into the future by having him be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life,” Foster said.
Stevens’ attorney, William Ashe of Ellsworth, did not return a message seeking comment Friday morning.
Stevens received a sentence of three years in prison on the gross sexual assault charge and a consecutive sentence of two years for the aggravated assault conviction. All but one year of the overall five-year sentence was suspended, and he will have to serve five years of probation after his release. If he violates his probation, he could be sent back to prison for another four years.
Stevens will be required to register with the state as a sex offender as part of his probation.
If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault‘s 24/7 hotline at 1–800-871-7741.