WEST ISLIP, Long Island (WABC) -- A former bus driver and two aides have pleaded not guilty to abusing a 9-year-old boy with autism who cannot speak.
The defendants are accused of multiple instances of abuse while taking him to and from school in West Islip last October, officials announced Tuesday.
They worked for East End Bus Company in Medford and transported the boy to his school, the Masera Learning Center.
The driver, 81-year-old James LaGreca, and the two aides -- 68-year-old Auga Roberts and 56-year-old Anneris Contreras -- were all fired after the child's parents complained and asked their employer to check for surveillance video.
Roberts is accused of kicking the boy and bending his toes backwards, causing him to cry out in pain. Roberts and Contreras are accused of using the victim's own hand to slap himself in the face multiple times.
On one occasion, the victim removed a shoe and threw it at LaGreca. LaGreca allegedly picked up the shoe and threw it at the victim.
"Video from inside the school bus shows the defendants on multiple occasions tormenting and physically abusing the victim," Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said.
All three suspects are facing multiple counts of endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person.
Sini says there is no excuse for abusing a child.
"Any abuse of a child is reprehensible, but to abuse a child with severe disabilities - a child who is unable to speak up about that abuse - is beyond depraved," Sini said. "These individuals were entrusted to care for the victim and provide him with a safe ride to and from school, but instead they subjected him to cruelty, ridicule, and physical abuse."
All the defendants were released without bail. If convicted, each suspect faces a maximum sentence of one and 1/3 to four years in prison for each charge.
The child's family lives within the Longwood Central School District which released the following statement:
The Longwood Central School District has been made aware of the arrest of a bus driver and two bus aides for allegations of abusing a district student. The alleged incidents did not occur on school grounds, nor were the alleged individuals involved in this matter, employees of the district. The alleged abuse happened on an East End owned minibus in route from BOCES where the student receives services.
Upon learning of these disturbing allegations, the district immediately contacted the Suffolk County Police Department, and we have fully cooperated as they conducted their investigation.
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Long Island bus driver, aides accused of abusing student with disabilities