Former councilmember Jeanette Burrage found ‘Not Guilty’ of assaulting child
Former Des Moines City Councilmember Jeanette Burrage was found ‘Not Guilty’ Thursday of charges of assaulting a special needs student who was riding on a Highline School District bus she was driving in 2015.
The verdict was handed down by a six-person jury at SeaTac Municipal Court on Thursday morning, May 26.
As we previously reported, initial charges of assault came after King County Sheriff’s detectives investigated the March 2015 incident, then recommended fourth degree assault charges be filed against her.
Burrage also served as a state legislator and King County Superior Court judge. She resigned from the Des Moines City Council in April, 2015.
At the time, the Sheriff’s office said it jointly investigated the case with the school district after school district employees that viewed the bus surveillance video from the afternoon routes on March 10 reported it to SeaTac Police on March 18. Police and school security officers initially responded to a disturbance on the bus but deputies said at the time there was no indication that an assault occurred. Following the incident, the student was taken home by school district security, said a Sheriff’s department spokesman.
An internal review of the bus surveillance video by district officials showed Burrage slapping the child, who was standing on a seat at the time, said deputies. District officials immediately contacted SeaTac Police, who turned the matter over to the Sheriff’s office Special Assault Unit, given their special experience with juvenile interviews. That unit worked with SeaTac Police to conclude the case.
Here’s surveillance video of the incident which was released at the time; note that a “much higher resolution” version of this footage was presented in the courtroom:
“Jeanette was innocent, and justice was served,” said her lawyer, Joseph A. Breidenbach of Burien.
Breidenbach added that the jury reviewed a “much higher resolution” video of the incident in the courtroom than had been previously distributed.
Bridenbach also told The Waterland Blog that the jury had a “very short” deliberation of around 35 minutes total, and they announced their verdict around 9:15 a.m. Thursday morning.
“It was extremely stressful, and I’m really hoping that somebody investigates the Highline School District transportation department,” Burrage told The Waterland Blog. “There’s a severe shortage of drivers, which needs to be investigated.”
Burrage had been driving buses for Highline Transportation since 2012, but was placed on administrative leave by the school district.
Burrage told The Waterland Blog that she’ll likely next seek an arbitration about whether she should’ve been fired.
“I have great faith in our justice system,” Burrage told The Waterland Blog.
Relieved yet still very emotional, Burrage added:
“I was so emotionally distraught that I didn’t want to go to council meetings, where I’d hear from angry residents, hear nasty remarks, read emails, receive negative phone calls – all of which really hurt me.
That’s why I resigned – I thought I was tough but I guess I wasn’t.”