New details on Tiger Transit case allege second driver turned off bus lights, gave warnings before new passenger boarded

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Investigators believe that the two Tiger Transit bus drivers arrested over the weekend for rape and sodomy conspired together on the night that an 18-year-old Auburn student was attacked on a Tiger Ten transit bus, court documents filed Thursday show.

In the initial filings, investigators said that James Don Johnson, the Tiger Transit employee who was driving the bus, turned off the lights for the bus at the request of Tony Patillo, the other suspect, and gave him a warning before turning the lights back on to pick up another passenger.

Both Patillo, the transit driver who is accused of raping the student, and Johnson were arrested on first-degree rape and sodomy charges on Saturday. Patillo was also arrested on public lewdness charges. According to police in the charging documents, the incident was caught on the bus's surveillance video.

Patillo and Johnson were operating Tiger Transit Bus #3372 that night, according to the documents.

The video appeared to show Patillo forcing the victim to have intercourse in the back of the bus, according to the court filings. 

The victim said that she did not consent to any sexual contact. The documents said the student was intoxicated during the attack on the bus.

Later, a bystander reported a man exposing himself on Aspen Heights Lane in Auburn. He was reportedly on top of the victim laying on the ground. Patillo, according to the documents, submitted a rights-advised statement admitting to having his pants down but denied having sex with the victim.

The Auburn Police Division detained Johnson at his home Saturday night at 9:23 p.m. nearly 22 hours after Patillo was arrested at the scene when the incident was reported to police, police confirmed to The Plainsman Wednesday.

Police weren't able to locate the victim immediately at the scene but were able to locate and interview her later.

The University waited until noon on Monday to issue a statement on the assault. News reports of the assault began circulating at 10 a.m. when the Auburn Police Division issued a release on the incident. A campus-wide email notifying students of the attack wasn't sent until 2 p.m. Monday afternoon.

No AUAlert notifying students of the attack was sent.

The University said it did not issue an AUAlert because officials, working with the Auburn Police Division, which was in agreement, did not believe there to be an “ongoing threat to students.”

Johnson is no longer listed an inmate at the Lee County Jail, having posted his $125,000 bond. However, Patillo remains in the Lee County Jail on a $127,000 bond. Both men have been fired from Tiger Transit, the operate First Transit said in statements issued after the incident.

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