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August 27, 2014

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Remorseful’ ex-bus driver gets 10 years in molestation case

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Former school bus driver Richard Stephen, 63, lowers his head while listening to District Court Judge Abbi Silver’s sentence Monday at the Regional Justice Center. Stephen was sentenced to 10 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 3 years on two counts of attempted lewdness of a minor under the age of 14.

Richard Stephen Sentencing Hearing

Former school bus driver Richard Stephen, 63, sits waiting to be called to appear before District Court Judge Abbi Silver for sentencing Monday at the Regional Justice Center.  Stephen was sentenced to 10 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 3 years on two counts of attempted lewdness of a minor under the age of 14. Launch slideshow »

A former elementary school bus driver was sentenced today to 10 years in prison on sexual molestation charges.

Richard Stephen, 63, pleaded guilty in July to two counts of attempted lewdness with a child under the age of 14 and was facing up to 40 years in prison.

In sentencing him, District Court Judge Abbi Silver said his age and that he appeared to be “sincerely remorseful” were factors that convinced her not to give him the maximum sentence.

However, Silver also said she would not release him on probation, which he was eligible for, because of the age of the victim and the details of the crime were “horrific.”

“I have great concern how you insert yourself into children’s lives, both as a bus driver for the School District in an elementary school setting and in this particular case with this particular woman and her child,” she said.

Stephen had been charged with eight counts of lewdness with a minor and three counts of sexual assault. Those were reduced to the two lesser charges under the terms of the plea agreement.

Stephen will be eligible for parole in three years. If released, he will be required to register as a sex offender and remain under intense supervision for the rest of his life.

The victim, a 5-year-old girl who was living with him in his North Las Vegas home, told police that he touched her 10 times in her bedroom or playroom, according to court records.

According to the police report, Stephen’s supervisor with the Clark County School District was conducting her own investigation after accusations of inappropriate conduct from students and their parents.

Several students reported that Stephen rubbed their arms, faces and shoulders on the bus. No charges were filed and there were no allegations that the touching was of a sexual nature.

Stephen asked Silver to show him mercy and allow him to spend the remainder of his days surrounded by his family instead of alone in prison.

“I know that my crimes are great and I am so very sorry and embarrassed and ashamed of my actions,” he said.

Prosecutor Mary Kay Holthus said Stephen hasn’t gone far enough in accepting responsibility for his actions.

She said he denies sexual contact but admits to kissing the victim and touching her breasts and buttocks in a “father-like manner.”

The mother of the girl was a boarder, who had lived on the street and had a history of drug abuse, Holthus said.

Holthus portrayed Stephen as a predator who disguised himself as a “knight in shinning armor” who offered the struggling mother and her young daughter a place to live.

Stephen remodeled a playroom for the girl and gained the mother’s trust by buying things for her.

He allowed the two to live with him to help pay his bills and only knew them for the four months they lived together, Holthus said.

“But her amount of rent was substantially less than what he put out to bring them in,” she said. “On the one hand if he wasn’t molesting her, it would be really nice. But on the other hand, it was clear when you look at what was going on, what was going on. He didn’t have them in there for financial benefit.”

Stephen has no criminal record and letters submitted to the court from his adopted niece and former stepdaughter both read that he never touched them inappropriately. Both women wrote that he was a kind and loving father figure to them.

Bill Terry, Stephen’s attorney, said that psychiatric tests showed Stephen to be a low-risk offender with a 6 percent chance of recidivism in the first five years.

Terry said his client is a Vietnam veteran with a doting family. He also noted that Stephen has had a heart bypass and has diabetes.

“Give him some credit for the totality of his life that he has had prior to coming before your honor,” Terry said to Silver. “One of the reasons this case was potentially resolved as speedy as it was was in order to give this man an opportunity to live out the rest of his life out of custody.”

Several of Stephen’s family members were at the hearing. The victim and her mother no longer live in the county, Holthus said.

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