CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – A Tennessee school bus driver who raped a 15-year-old student will not serve jail time for his crime.
Instead, Alexander Rodriquez was sentenced by Hamilton County Judge Barry Steelman to four years in prison, but suspended the sentence in favor of sex offender probation for a decade. The sentence also requires Rodriquez to wear a GPS monitor, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.
“The judge asked why the state wasn’t asking for time,” Rodriquez’ attorney, Johnny Houston, told the news site. “We did point out that (Rodriquez) had already served 100 days.”
Rodriquez was initially arrested and jailed on a $350,000 bond, which was later reduced to $15,000, which he paid.
The 34-year-old bus driver for pleaded guilty to aggravated statutory rape stemming from a March 2015 incident involving a 15-year-old student at Sale Creek High School. The girl told police Rodriquez took the girl on the bus to a loading station, then in his car to a Super 8 Hotel on Lee Highway where he forced her to perform oral sex and raped her, according to the news site.
“The affidavit says she told investigators she repeatedly said ‘no.’ But she says Rodriquez raped her anyway. While she was being raped, she told investigators that she said to Rodriquez that it hurt, and that Rodriquez replied, ‘I’m trying to make it hurt,’” WTVC reports.
Meanwhile, the girl’s father was calling school officials and the girl’s friends attempting to locate her. He learned the girl boarded the bus but never got off her stop, and filed a missing person’s report. The girl was considered missing at 9:30 p.m., and police called Rodriquez to inquire about the student’s whereabouts.
After the call, Rodriquez “took the girl to another location and told her to tell police she was with a friend,” KTLA reports.
Police contend Rodriquez dropped the student off in Birchwood and told her to walk home, which took roughly an hour. They also allege Rodriquez requested an attorney when investigators questioned him about taking the teen to a motel.
Hamilton said he’s unsure exactly why prosecutors did not pursue jail time against his client, but believes the girl’s story about what happened may have been an issue.
The girl told police the sex was forced, “and the evidence didn’t really bear that out,” he said. “So there may have been some overall credibility issues with her.”
The girl’s legal guardians – who sued Rodriquez for $10 million for emotional trauma, lost wages and irreparable damage to their relationship with the teen – were less than impressed by the former bus driver’s sentence, the Times Free Press reports.
“We were immediately turned off by the fact that there was no jail time,” the girl’s father, who was not identified, told the news site.
“There was nothing else we could do. I’m disappointed that somebody that commits a crime sexually, especially against a child, gets treated like a DUI,” he said. “Like you can just go to classes or can just be supervised and that’s punishment enough.”
The man said the experience devastated his family.
“For me and my family, this has been an absolutely heartbreaking experience for all of us,” he said. “The loss of a child would be about the only thing I can think you could compare this to.”
Rodriquez worked for the bus contractor Durham School Services, but was later fired.
He now works for M&S Trucking Crew, a Georgia based transport company, according to the Times Free Press.
A jury trial on the family’s lawsuit against Rodriquez is set to begin Aug. 1.
The county prosecutor did not respond to the news site’s requests for comment.