Outside Expert Sought To Evaluate School Bus Driver Charged with Sexual Assault

Outside Expert Sought To Evaluate School Bus Driver Charged with Sexual Assault

Defense gets more time to prepare case after state report finds client competent to stand trial

| Published:

No trial date set for school bus driver accused of sexual abuse.

File photo

The lawyer defending a former Montgomery County school bus driver accused of sexually abusing four students is rejecting the state’s finding that his client is competent to stand trial.

Etienne Kabongo, 62, of Gaithersburg, is charged with one count each of sexual abuse of a minor, second-degree rape and third-degree sexual-offense stemming from a July 2018 incident involving a 12-year-old girl.

Further investigation uncovered three other alleged assaults against students.

Defense attorney Jim Shalleck requested a state psychiatric evaluation of Kabongo in January and said he planned to pursue an insanity defense.

The state Department of Health found Kabongo competent to stand trial in a May 10 report, but at a Thursday morning hearing, Shalleck disputed the findings and said he is searching for an outside expert to evaluate his client.

Shalleck said he’s spoken to five doctors, but hasn’t been able to secure one. He cited cost as an issue for Kabongo’s family.

Shalleck described his communications with Kabongo as “very disjointed and erratic,” leading him to argue his client is not criminally responsible for the alleged crimes by reason of insanity and is not fit to stand trial.

Shalleck had said at the January hearing that if the state’s psychiatric findings did not support this argument, “we’ll have to proceed in a different direction.”

Kabongo appeared in the county Circuit Court room in a green prison jumpsuit. He only spoke to confirm he had been evaluated at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center but was living in the county jail in Clarksburg.

Judge Robert Greenberg gave Shalleck another month to secure an evaluation of Kabongo.

“It’s useless to set a trial date if we’re going to continue to evaluate him and we don’t know when that’s going to be done,” Greenberg said.

Kabongo’s five-day jury trial was initially scheduled for Feb. 11 following his August 2018 arrest. Prosecutors pushed back against another delay in setting a trial.

“I’ve never run into this issue before,” Montgomery County Assistant State’s Attorney Elizabeth Haynos said. “We want this trial to be done, the families of the victims want this trial to be done.”

Kabongo will remain held without bond at the county jail. Greenberg ordered the psychiatric report be sealed.

Charlie Wright can be reached at charlie.wright@bethesdamagazine.com

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