Witnesses subpoenaed for hearing in Woodmore bus driver's rape case

Witnesses subpoenaed for hearing in Woodmore bus driver's rape case

Johnthony Walker gets public defender, new court date

June 18th, 2018 by Zack Peterson in Local Regional News

This story was updated June 18, 2018, at 4:47 p.m. with more information.

Johnthony Walker

Johnthony Walker

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — The bus driver convicted in the 2016 Talley Road Woodmore Elementary crash that killed six children will appear here in court later this week for a preliminary hearing on his new statutory rape charge.

Court records show three people have been subpoenaed to appear in Davidson County General Sessions Court on Thursday: Walker's alleged victim and two police officers. That hearing gives Walker's defense its first opportunity to challenge and hear all of the state's evidence to date.

If Judge Allegra Walker determines there's enough proof at the end of that hearing, she can send Walker's charge to a grand jury, leading him one step closer to a new indictment.

Walker, 25, was arrested Thursday night after allegedly telling police he'd had sex with a 14-year-old girl five times over the last few months while staying in Nashville. According to an affidavit filed in Nashville, the girl's parents called police when they found out last week, and Walker told officers the relationship was consensual.

He is charged with aggravated statutory rape, a Class D felony that carries a maximum punishment of up to 12 years, and is being held on a $350,000 bond.

Walker's arrest came days after his lawyer in the bus crash case tried to convince a Chattanooga judge to lower his four-year prison sentence. Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole rejected that argument but allowed Walker to remain out on bond while he continues to appeal his conviction.

Since September, Walker has been on supervised release with an ankle monitor and, according to a recent news report in the Tennessean newspaper, living outside of Chattanooga to avoid death threats.

Earlier this year, a jury convicted Walker of six counts of criminally negligent homicide and other charges in connection with the Nov. 21, 2016, crash that involved 37 Woodmore Elementary School students. Prosecutors said Walker was speeding and using his cellphone around the time he lost control of bus 366 and crashed into a walnut tree on Talley Road in Brainerd. As a result, six children died and a number of others were injured.

Walker was scheduled to appear Monday in Davidson County General Sessions Court, but his court date was passed to Thursday. Records show Walker has received a public defender in the new case, though that person could not be reached for comment.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.