Former Tomahawk school bus driver found guilty of felony child enticement charge after no contest plea
Two other felony counts dismissed but read in
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor
MERRILL – A former Tomahawk school bus driver accused of improper behavior involving a then-15-year-old female student in 2017 pleaded no contest to a felony charge of child enticement-sexual contact and was found guilty in Lincoln County Court on Friday, Feb. 14. Felony counts of abduction of a child-detaining and stalking were dismissed but read in.
Lincoln County District Attorney Galen Bayne-Allison requested a prison sentence for James T. Schmit, but did not specifically recommend what the confinement period should be, according to court records.
Schmit, 54, formerly of Tomahawk and whose address is listed in court records as being in Stevens Point as of Aug. 2017, was charged with the three felony counts following an incident on June 7, 2017. Schmit had been a school bus driver for 26 years at the time he was charged.
According to a criminal complaint filed with the Lincoln County District Attorney’s office on June 16, 2017, the girl rode the bus Schmit was driving on the last day of school. Schmit allegedly suggested the girl continue riding the bus so they could visit while he dropped off the other students and said that he would drop her off at home afterward.
Roughly 40 minutes later, and after allegedly passing the girl’s house two times, Schmit suggested he show the girl where he lived. He drove to his residence, parked the bus and asked the girl if she wanted to see his dog. The girl declined and said she needed to get home right away. Schmit then drove the girl back to her home.
Once at the girl’s residence, Schmit allegedly hugged the girl, kissed the side of her forehead and told her that he loved her, the complaint states.
The girl later told a Lincoln County Sheriff’s Deputy that Schmit knew when her mother was home and when she wasn’t, and that she had locked the door when she got home, worried that Schmit would return to the residence as he was aware her mother wasn’t there, according to the complaint.
In news reports following the incident, Lincoln County District Attorney Kurt Zengler said Schmit appeared to be grooming the girl, becoming familiar with her family life and whereabouts.
The girl was not physically harmed in the incident.
The complaint states that audio and visual content from the bus company corroborated the girl’s story and also showed Schmit performing a sexual act while saying the girl’s name. He later admitted to these actions, along with developing sexual desires for other girls during his years as a bus driver, including a girl who had recently graduated from the eighth grade, according to the complaint.
Schmit was arrested on June 14, 2017.
A scheduling conference is scheduled for March 12.