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Child Testifies Against Driver

Following more than 60 minutes of testimony from a nine-year-old witness, Judge Gayl B. Carr certified the case against Jose F. Fratti to the grand jury.

Fratti, a bus driver for Fairfax County Public Schools was arrested on May 25 for the abduction and sexual assault of the nine-year-old girl. The girl called her former bus driver "Mr. Jose."

On the morning of May 24 when she got on her bus, she said her bus driver "slipped the phone number in my hand. When I looked up at it, it was his name and phone number," the girl testified during Fratti's preliminary hearing in Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on Friday, July 29. "He said, 'Call me, but don't let anybody know.'"

The nine-year-old testified that she called him because she wanted to know what he wanted. She said Fratti then called her back at her house numerous times between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

"He kept calling me and calling me," she said. "The last time I talked with him…he was like, 'I'm coming over.' I said, 'Huh?'"

When he drove to her apartment complex, the nine-year-old met him outside. He told her to get in his truck, according to the witness.

"I was going to say, 'Hi, how are you doing? I have to go," she testified. "When I got in the truck, the door locked. When I tried to open and shut it, it wouldn't open."

The girl testified that he sexually assaulted her in the truck. "He started pulling me over to his side. I was like, 'Let me go,'" she said.

She said her father told her to call the police when she called him to tell him what happened.

During an interview with detectives, Fratti corroborated statements made by the victim, according to search warrants filed by police detectives.

<b>"WHY DIDN'T YOU</b> tell [the bus aide] or a teacher at school," Greenspun asked, after the nine-year-old repeated that Fratti put a note in her hand as she shook his hand.

"I don't know," she said.

Greenspun asked the nine-year-old questions for approximately 40-50 minutes Friday. Following her testimony, he asked Judge Carr to strike the charges — "abduction with intent to defile" and "object penetration."

"Obviously there are a lot of inconsistencies," Greenspun said. He said one charge was a "virtual impossibility" based on the girl's descriptions of where she and her bus driver were located in the car.

But Michael Ben'Ary, assistant commonwealth's attorney, said the testimony of the nine-year-old was clear. "There is nothing inconsistent and nothing implausible about it," he said.

Fratti remains free on bond, and a Fairfax Circuit Court grand jury is expected to hear the case in September.

When asked if he wanted to share anything from Fratti's point of view, Greenspun said, "We try cases in the courtroom, not in the press."

<b>NEARLY 67 PERCENT</b> of all sexual assaults are against juveniles, with one-third committed against youth under 12-years-old and one in seven committed against children under 6-years-old, according to statistics posted on ChildSafeNet's Web site.

One out of every five girls and one out of every 10 boys is sexually assaulted before reaching adulthood, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. But fewer than 35 percent of such assaults are reported to authorities. See www.childsafenet.org.