DANVERS — A now-fired bus driver admitted yesterday to backhanding a 21-year-old passenger with Down syndrome because he was irritated by the young man’s attempt to start a conversation with him during one trip last year.
John Marrs, 53, of Ober Street, Beverly, was found guilty of a charge of assault and battery on a disabled person, one of three counts he’d originally faced following an investigation by state police last year.
“At some point you have to draw a line in the sand, and striking a disabled (individual) because of being aggravated or irritated is just unacceptable,” said Salem District Court Judge Michael Lauranzano.
Lauranzano imposed a year of probation, with conditions that include anger management classes and no work with disabled children or adults.
Prosecutors had been seeking a suspended jail term and similar conditions for Marrs, who was a driver for Danvers-based LBK Transportation, which provides rides for developmentally and intellectually disabled people.
The Sept. 19, 2012, incident came to the attention of investigators about a month later, through another passenger, whose grandmother took him to be interviewed by state police and the Essex district attorney’s office, according to a police report.
Prosecutor Alex Grimes said the victim, a young Danvers man who works for a recycling facility shredding paper, is friendly and has a mental age of about 5 or 6.
He often tries to get people’s attention and initiate conversation by saying “Hey” over and over, said the prosecutor.
The other passenger told investigators that the young man always sat at the front of the bus, near the driver.
But on that morning — and allegedly at least two others — Marrs reached over and struck the young man in the forehead with the back of his hand.
The young man responded the same way each time, saying “Scary, scary, scary,” and moving away from Marrs, according to the police report by Trooper Steven Buccheri.