Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)
Ex-bus driver pleads to making videos of girls
He faces a possibility of 480 years in prison
>> A former Marple Newtown School District bus driver is facing more than 480 years in prison after pleading guilty to making “upskirt” videos of 21 female Catholic school students he transported.
Bruce S. Garner, 71, of the 100 block of West Plumstead Avenue in Lansdowne entered open guilty pleas before Common Pleas Court Judge Mary Alice Brennan to 21 counts each of attempted creation of child pornography, unlawful contact with minors and invasion of privacy.
Garner also pleaded guilty to one count each of endangering the welfare of children, criminal use of a communication facility and possessing an instrument of crime.
Court records indicate Garner had been charged with 547 counts regarding what Deputy District Attorney Kristen Kemp, head of the Special Victims Unit, said were a total 139 videos that detectives found Garner had shot before his arrest in May.
It was a video shot by one of Garner’s victims showing the driver with his phone down by his side as he spoke to another student that prompted that investigation. The victim brought it to her mother’s attention and they took the matter to the school district.
The 14-year-old student at St. Mary Magdalen School in Media reported that she believed Garner had been recording her for some time using his iPhone as she entered and exited the bus, according to an affidavit of probable cause written by Upper Providence Detective Sgt. George L. Moore.
Moore reviewed the video captured by the student, which he said depicts Garner sitting in the driver’s seat of the bus with his arm “fully extended towards the floor, holding the cellular phone with the camera side out and angled upwards.”
Moore also interviewed the 14-year-old with her mother. The girl said she and two other juvenile females had felt uncomfortable around Garner for some time, who she said only ever engages with the girls and never the boys.
The victim said this usually happened when the girls are wearing their traditional Catholic school uniforms, which include a skirt. In the video shot by the student, Moore said Garner could be heard discussing upcoming lacrosse playoffs with the 14-yearold.
“Through the course of getting on and off the bus, they realized that more frequently he was holding the phone by his side and they just felt that that was unusual,” Moore said. “They never observed him talking on the phone while he was driving the bus or anything like that, but as they were entering and exiting the bus they … became suspicious of it and were able to bring that to their parents attention, which led them to bring it to the school district’s attention, which ultimately got the police involved.”
Admitted to police
During an interview with police, Garner admitted to recording the 14-year-old and two other juvenile females, who he identified by name as two other St. Mary Magdalen students.
Garner told Moore he would hold the phone down next to his seat as the students entered and exited the bus, and that he would capture the victims’ “upper legs and buttocks areas” using the built-in camera, according to the affidavit.
When asked for a time period of when this occurred, Garner said he shot the videos during the school year. He could not be certain how many videos he had taken, but stated he had done it “more than once, that’s for certain.”
A forensic analysis of Garner’s phone revealed that 139 such videos had been shot.
“During some of the videos, Garner engages the child/victims in conversation in an effort to slow them down or have them stop in the area of his camera, helping him to capture better images of the child/ victims pubic area,” the arrest affidavit reads.
Upper Providence Police Chief Dave Montella said there was no evidence Garner ever had any physical contact with any of the initially identified eight victims, whose ages ranged from 9 to 14 years old.
Montella said Garner had been a bus driver for the district since 2015 and had no prior arrests.
Though he drove students for both the Marple Newtown School District and the parish, Montella said all of the victims were St. Mary Magdalen’s students.
Defense and reactions
Garner, represented by attorney Emmett Madden, posted $25,000 bail on June 2, according to online court records. Madden previously said that his client apologizes for his behavior, and understands the seriousness of the allegations and the trust he violated.
“He is entering mental health treatment on his own accord,” said Madden. “He is a 70-year-old father and husband, who has never been in any trouble. He is remorseful for his actions and committed to proving that he is worthy of redemption.”
Marple Newtown School District Superintendent Tina Kane and Philadelphia Archdiocese Chief of Communications Kenneth Gavin previously indicated their respective institutions would cooperate with police in the investigation.
Kemp said Thursday that none of the charges Garner pleaded to would merge for sentencing purposes and that he faces a maximum total 481 years in prison.
She advised the judge that a number of victims and their families indicated they would be making victim impact statements at sentencing, set for June 1.