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Bus driver charged in Duluth with four child-sex crimes

A 62-year-year-old school bus driver with no apparent prior criminal history was charged in St. Louis County District Court this afternoon with sexually assaulting four preteen girls.

A 62-year-year-old school bus driver with no apparent prior criminal history was charged in St. Louis County District Court this afternoon with sexually assaulting four preteen girls.

Jimmy Jerome James of Two Harbors is charged with four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct for allegedly engaging in sexual contact with another person under 13 years old while the defendant is more than 36 months older than the victim.

According to the criminal complaint, James placed his hands under the girls' clothes and touched the girls on their buttocks, chests and "private parts."

A boy was interviewed at the First Witness Child Abuse Resource Center last week and told an interviewer that he and his sister were on the school bus on their way home about two weeks ago when the bus driver called his sister to the front of the bus. He said he saw the bus driver, referred to as "Jimmy,'' have his sister sit on his lap.

He said he saw James put his hand on his sister's buttocks and on her private parts. He said when he saw that he began to feel very sad and thought he was going to cry. He said that a few days before this happened to his sister, he had seen the same thing happen to another girl, the complaint alleges.

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St. Louis County prosecutor Nathaniel Stumme submitted a memo to the court asking that James' bail be set at $500,000. Stumme cited the gravity of the charges and that the defendant is a risk to leave the area because of the stigmatizing nature of the charges.

Cloquet defense attorney Joanna Wiegert is representing James. Wiegert argued that she has been involved in some homicide cases in which the bail wasn't that high. She said James is a not a flight risk. She said he is a lifelong resident of the area, his wife is employed here full time and he had made no attempt to leave the area after the sexual assault allegations surfaced and he was suspended from his job as a part-time school bus driver for the North Shore Community School.

Judge Mark Munger set bail at $100,000 bond, but he referred the case to an Arrowhead Regional Corrections probation officer to consider whether James should be granted supervised release. The court ordered the defendant to have no contact with the alleged victims.

Stumme's bail memo to the court also said at least one woman has alleged that James sexually assaulted her when she was a juvenile. The allegation was reported but not prosecuted. The woman and other alleged adult victims she has identified are being interviewed by investigators.

Wiegert was critical of law enforcement for arresting her client after he had talked to them on the phone and made arrangements to meet with her.

She also said she was "very uncomfortable'' by reports suggesting that there are other victims. She accused authorities of going on a "fishing expedition and trolling for victims.''

North Shore Community School is a charter school sponsored by Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, with 261 students in kindergarten through sixth grade, in St. Louis County.

James has been a full-time employee of the Lake Superior School District for the past 38 years. He is the head janitor at Two Harbors High School. He was placed on administrative leave on March 19.

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James' wife and a group of his supporters declined comment outside the courtroom on the advice of Wiegert.

The defendant's next court appearance is scheduled for May 5.

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