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Trial begins for bus aide accused of punching boy

Patricia Bennett, 59, of Warren, sits at the defense table Monday during jury selection of his assault trial in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

YOUNGSTOWN — Opening arguments are scheduled to begin today in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court in a case alleging a Warren woman assaulted a special needs student on a school bus in Austintown.

Patricia Bennett, 59, of Jackson Street SW, Warren, is facing charges of assault, endangering children and falsification. The charges stem from a Jan. 6, 2020, incident when a student was boarding a bus at the Leonard Kirtz School in Austintown when Bennett was a bus aide.

Judge Maureen Sweeney sent jurors home Monday after seating the jury and reading the preliminary instructions to them.

A woman in January came to the Austintown police station to report an aide pushed her son as he was getting on the bus at the 4801 Woodridge Drive school. The boy then pushed the aide, and the aide punched the boy with a closed fist, according to a police report.

There is video of the incident, according to the police report.

The 17-year-old student was assaulted and then acted in self-defense, attorneys for the teen state in a civil lawsuit related to the criminal case.

Bennett and the Mahoning County Board of Developmental Disabilities were named in the lawsuit, though Bennett’s attorney, Michael Scala, wrote in a counterclaim that it was Bennett who was assaulted.

Bennett is no longer employed by the board of developmental disabilities, according to the human resources office.

The trial is expected to take one day, and the state is expected to call six witnesses, including the victim and Austintown police officers who investigated the case, according to assistant Prosecutor Rob Bennett.

Bennett posted a $4,000 surety bond in March 2020.

gvogrin@tribtoday.com

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