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School Bus Driver Pleads No Contest to Sex Charge

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Laidlaw Transit school bus driver pleaded no contest to a charge he had sex with a minor, a 15-year-old hearing-impaired Burbank girl he drove to junior high school, authorities said today.

Manny G. Acosta, 33, of North Hollywood entered the plea Thursday in Burbank Municipal Court in exchange for a promise from the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office not to seek a sentence of more than 16 months in prison.

The plea was entered in a closed hearing after Municipal Judge Marion Gubler granted a defense request to exclude the public and the media from the courtroom. Deputy Dist. Atty. David Disco, who heads the Pasadena office, said his office objected to the closed hearing in a previous meeting in the judge’s chambers.

Acosta, who Laidlaw officials said will be fired after the company is officially notified of his plea, is scheduled to be sentenced June 8. He has no prior criminal record, authorities said.

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“Based on the facts of this case it was our view that the 16-month maximum sentence was appropriate,” Disco said.

The bus driver was arrested May 2 after a two-day investigation which began after one of the 15-year-old girl’s friends told a school counselor of her involvement with Acosta.

Burbank police said Acosta drove a bus route which took the girl from Burbank to Toll Junior High School in Glendale, where she attended special classes for the hearing-impaired. Detectives said the girl fell in love with Acosta and the two began a relationship. Police said Acosta and the girl engaged in consensual sex in his van, not in the bus or on school property.

After the arrest, Burbank Unified School District officials said they would consider discontinuing use of the bus company. Acosta’s arrest was the fourth time this year Laidlaw drivers were arrested in Southern California.

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