Lawyers and friends of two teenagers charged with assaulting an MBTA bus driver asserted today that the driver struck first then swerved the bus to hit the two men, pinning them both against a wall.
“We have a select group of witnesses who gave the statements’’ to police, Peachy said.
“The bus operator stepped on the accelerator to make the bus go faster,” one of the teenagers told police, according to court records.
The operator then yelled, “I got you, I got you,” while the men were pinned, according to attorney Paul Carrigan, who represents one of the teenagers.
Yet authorities today maintained that the teenagers assaulted the driver on Monday and said that several independent witnesses gave supporting accounts.
Felix Garcia, 18, and Michael Baptista, 19, both of Roxbury, were arraigned in Roxbury District Court today on charges of interfering with a bus driver and assault and battery on a public employee.
Baptista, who was also charged with threatening to commit a crime, was released on his own recognizance. Garcia, who has outstanding charges of assault with a dangerous weapon, and armed robbery, was ordered held on $10,000 cash bail, and he also had his bail revoked on his outstanding charges.
The case was continued to May 13.
Joe Pesaturo, MBTA spokesman, said that his agency “has full confidence in the court system and a trial by jury.”
But Jane Peachy, a lawyer for Garcia, said that there is only “a select group of witnesses who gave statements to MBTA police.”
The MBTA and the teenagers agree on this: The bus driver, identified as 39-year-old, 13-year veteran, stopped the bus on Dudley Street at about 3:15 p.m. after smelling cigarette smoke, and went to the back of the bus to identify the perpetrator. Smoking on an MBTA vehicle is prohibited.
They also agree that Baptista talked back to the driver using expletives, telling him to get back to driving. As the driver returned to his seat to call police, Baptista, Garcia and several acquaintances exited the rear of the bus.
There was no determination that Baptista and Garcia were smoking. They denied it, though Garcia acknowledged having a lighter and an unlit cigarette in his hand.
What unfolded next is in dispute.
Baptista said, according to an MBTA Transit Police affidavit filed in court, that he then entered the front of the bus to ask the driver for his identification so that he could file a complaint and the two began to argue. Baptista also said that the driver made fun of the suit he was wearing. Baptista had just gone to a job interview.
Baptista said that the driver hit him in the face. They struggled for a bit, and Baptista left the bus.
Baptista and Garcia both told authorities that the driver veered the bus at them, pinning them against the wall. Baptista was able to free himself, while Garcia had his foot pinned under the tire. Firefighters had to use extrication tools to free him.
When authorities arrived, Garcia was laughing at the situation, telling friends he was going to sue the MBTA and receive a “free MBTA pass for life,” according to court records.
But the bus operator and other witnesses told authorities that Baptista punched the operator when he came back on the bus, and that several friends, including Garcia, started hitting him as well.
One witness told police that as the driver was being assaulted, he felt the bus begin to move “very slowly,” and veering to the right, until it went up a sidewalk and hit a traffic light.
The operator said he fell unconscious before the bus veered and crashed.
Out of the hospital and recuperating at home, the driver did not wish to be interviewed today. Through his union president, John J. Lee, he thanked the emergency personnel who responded and the police, prosecutors, and witnesses involved in the investigation.
"This was a very stressful period of time for our operator. He's home doing well, recovering, and I think he's been vindicated in all of the witness testimony that resulted in the arrest and now prosecution of these individuals," said Lee, president of the Boston Carmen's Union.
In a memo to employees today, MBTA General Manager Richard A. Davey said he was "extremely upset" about the incident and stressed that safety of employees and customers is his first concern.
"This incident demonstrated the challenges of our work environment -- challenges that are not easily solved but that we will continue to address in our training, security, operations and community relations work," wrote Davey, who complimented the driver for "calling dispatch as soon as he knew there were unruly passengers on board."
Friends of Baptista and Garcia said outside the courthouse that both are innocent.
“Everybody is automatically taking the side of the bus driver,” said Christine Gonzalez, the sister-in-law of Garcia.
As he left the courthouse, Baptista would only say, “Just know this: the story’s funny, that’s all I think. ... How you going to jump a kid and end up under the bus?”
Kayana Szymczak for The Boston Globe
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