A former church van driver went on trial Wednesday on charges of sexually groping a 16-year-old girl on a desolate dirt road, and prosecutors planned to present evidence alleging he did the same thing to a 14-year-old.
Bobby Shane Bruce, 33, of Pendergrass, faces misdemeanor charges of sexual battery, simple battery and interference with custody. A Hall County State Court jury heard opening statements and testimony from the alleged victim, who is now 17.
Bruce drove a van for the Mountain Creek Baptist Church in Pendergrass. The alleged victim testified that on the night of Nov. 2, 2008, she was getting a ride home from church and asked Bruce to drop her off last because she wanted to chat with her friends on the van.
The girl said she was alone in the front passenger seat when Bruce pulled off to turn onto Fuller Road, a darkened dirt road in Hall County several miles from where she lived.
“I was starting to feel a little scared,” she testified.
The girl said Bruce reached over and groped her, then turned onto the dirt road and continued to touch her over her clothes. She accused him of stopping the van, pulling his seat back and pulling his pants down.
“He pulled me onto him and tried to unbutton my pants,” she testified. “I kept asking him to stop, and finally he stopped.”
Bruce then drove her to her house, the girl testified.
In her opening statement, Chief Assistant Solicitor Amber Sowers told the jury they would hear from another witness who had nearly the same thing happen to her in the church van in August 2008. The girl was 14 when Bruce allegedly took her to a dirt road, groped her and tried to pull her body onto him, Sowers said. The accuser said Bruce eventually stopped after she told him to stop.
“The purpose of her testimony will be to show you that this defendant has the bent of mind and course of conduct to commit these acts again,” Sowers said. “He takes them to dark roads and sexually assaults them.”
Bruce’s attorney, Michelle Rohan, told the jurors in her opening statement that they could consider the credibility of the witnesses.
“It’s up to you to determine who is credible and who is not,” Rohan said. “This case is basically a ‘he said, she said.’ There’s no independent witnesses who can say they saw Mr. Bruce do this to these girls.”
Reached by phone Wednesday, Mountain Creek Baptist Pastor Jeff Graham said Bruce was relieved of his driving duties the night the allegations became public.
“I hate the whole situation, for the girls and for him,” Graham said. “My prayer is that everything works out so that whoever is guilty, receives their punishment. I’m trying to stay neutral. I have to minister to both sides.”
The trial continues today.