A former Salem school bus driver has been convicted of two misdemeanors after kissing a teenage girl.
At a bench trial Monday in Salem Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Johnny Paul Couch, 70, was found guilty of assault and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Judge Hilary Griffith sentenced Couch to 18 months in jail, but that time will be suspended after he serves 25 days. He will be allowed to fulfill his sentence on weekends, prosecutors said.
Soon after the incident occurred, a relative of the victim was accused of physically attacking Couch while he was working, and that man now faces felony and misdemeanor charges.
The chain of events dates back to last winter. Search warrants in the case said that on Jan. 14, Couch was using social media to communicate with a 16-year-old acquaintance. He drove to where she worked and asked her to sit in his car with him, the warrant said.
According to the warrant, Couch asked her for a hug, and was given one, but “then kissed the juvenile several times on the lips” without her consent. The girl left and told her parents, police have said.
The following day, Couch was driving his bus route when a man came aboard the vehicle and attacked him, police said.
Criminal charges for both men quickly followed, and Couch, a bus driver since November 2016, was fired that same day.
The man accused of attacking Couch, Shannon Duane Aliff of Salem, initially faced a charge of misdemeanor assault, but a city spokesman later said prosecutors deemed that count “not appropriate for the offense” and it was upgraded to felony malicious wounding. Aliff is also charged with misdemeanors including trespassing on a bus and contributing to the delinquency of minors because juveniles were on the bus at the time of the attack.
On Tuesday, Salem Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Bowers said that at Aliff’s recent preliminary hearing, a judge certified the charges against him and the case will now go before a grand jury.
In Virginia, malicious wounding is a Class 3 felony that can bring between five and 20 years in prison.