Judge: School bus driver accused of touching a child is competent to stand trial

Judge: School bus driver accused of touching a child is competent to stand trial
Sergio Sandoval, 69, is accused of touching a child on multiple occasions when he worked as a school bus driver for Ocean Springs

JACKSON COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - Twenty months after collapsing in court, causing the judge to declare a mistrial, former Ocean Springs school bus driver Sergio Sandoval will once again stand trial.

Sandoval, who is now 69, was declared competent by Judge Kathy King Jackson Tuesday morning in her Jackson County courtroom. Sandoval is accused of touching an 8-year-old girl in 2014 on at least four separate occasions.

His second trial is set to begin Nov. 18, 2019.

During his first trial for these same charges, the former bus driver collapsed. After being released from the emergency room, he was seen by a psychologist, who was unable to determine if he was suffering from a mental disease or defect. A mistrial was declared the next day.

After a court-ordered evaluation by a different psychologist later that month, that doctor determined that Sandoval was not able to fully participate in the legal process with his attorney and recommended that he be taken to Mississippi State Hospital for treatment.

Sandoval was evaluated again at the state hospital in November 2017. The doctor there determined that Sandoval was feigning impairments. However, because Sandoval would not cooperate with the mental health assessment, the doctor ultimately said he was not able to make a determination about the suspect’s competency.

A third mental evaluation was ordered in February 2018 that involved Sandoval being interviewed multiple times by two different doctors. He also underwent psychological testing and received a CT scan.

Both doctors who assessed Sandoval determined that, despite some memory impairments, he "does not have a mental disease or defect that would impair his ability to understand factual information related to criminal legal proceedings, and rationally apply this information."

The doctors unanimously concluded that Sandoval was competent to stand trial.

Sandoval is accused of inappropriately touching an 8-year-old girl who was riding his bus in the fall of 2014. According to Ocean Springs Police, a report was filed by the child’s parent after the girl said her bus driver touched her outside and inside her pants on several occasions. The child told police Sandoval said it was “their secret” and for her not to tell anyone. According to the report, there were other children on the bus when these incidents took place.

Sandoval was ultimately is charged with one count of sexual battery and four counts of molesting a child.

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