Prosecutor drops indecent assault charges against former Riverside Industries bus driver
NORTHAMPTON — On the day trial was to start, and five days after a woman who said she’d been assaulted by a bus driver offered confusing, conflicting testimony in court, the Northwestern district attorney’s office dropped all charges in the case.
Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Jayme Parent on Monday dropped charges against Elvin Torres, 49, of Holyoke, who had faced six counts of assault and battery on a person over 14 and six counts of indecent assault and battery on a retarded person.
Torres had been charged in connection with allegations that he assaulted a 33-year-old woman who was a client of Riverside Industries while he was working as a bus driver for the Easthampton agency in the summer of 2010.
Marissa Elkins, the court-appointed attorney representing Torres, said Tuesday that her client was greatly relieved that the charges were dropped. She said the case was difficult for Torres because it led to a long period of unemployment and due to the nature of allegations, but she also said he bears no ill will toward the complaining witness.
“He wanted to zealously defend that case. He was adamant that he didn’t do what he was accused of,” Elkins said. “He was always focused on just clearing his name.”
Torres had worked for Riverside for about two years when he was suspended due to the allegations, according to Elkins.
In a motion filed with the court Monday, when the trial was to start, Parent stated that the prosecution was unwilling to pursue the case after a witness’ change in testimony and other factors, including that she had admitted to making a previous false allegation.
“After a full review of all the evidence,” Parent wrote, “the commonwealth does not believe that it is in the interests of justice to proceed further with the prosecution of this matter.”
Last week, in a pretrial hearing, the complaining witness in the case took the stand and offered conflicting and contradictory testimony.
Elkins, of Northampton, argued before Hampshire Superior Court Judge Richard Carey that the witness had a history of making false or unprovable statements similar to the ones that brought the charges against Torres, questioning her competency to testify. Carey later ruled she was competent to testify.
Parent then filed what is known as a “nolle prosecui” Monday in which she said her office declined to prosecute the case due to “and the degree to which the alleged victim was willing and able to testify.”
Parent is the chief of the district attorney’s Elders and Persons with Disabilities Protection Unit.
“Individuals with disabilities are some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” Parent said in a statement. “As happened in this case we occasionally must make the difficult decision to terminate the prosecution of a case when it is in the interests of justice to do so.”
Elkins applauded the Parent’s decision.
“I think the prosecution made a hard decision but that it was the correct one,” Elkins said. “Mr. Torres always maintained his innocence, but the case presented the prosecution with a difficult choice.”