MAYVILLE - A Randolph school bus driver accused of sexually abusing a child last fall pleaded innocent Monday morning in Chautauqua County Court.
John O. Hitchcock, 66, entered his plea before Judge John T. Ward. Bail was set at $50,000 cash or $100,000 real property.
Hitchcock, who has been held in Chautauqua County Jail since his arrest Friday, is accused of sexually abusing a juvenile male from September to October. Authorities and child advocacy groups from Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties conducted a joint investigation into the allegations.
OBSERVER?Photo by Eric Tichy
John O. Hitchcock enters Chautauqua County Court on Monday morning for arraignment. Hitchcock is accused of sexually abusing a juvenile male in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.
Deputies in Cattaraugus County were first notified of the sexual abuse that allegedly took place between Randolph and Ashville.
Hitchcock was picked up without incident on an arrest warrant after an indictment was received. The Randolph man was charged with seven counts of first-degree sexual abuse, a felony, and one count of endangering the welfare of a child.
North Boston attorney Brian Attea is representing Hitchcock. When discussing bail options, Attea noted Hitchcock's lack of any criminal record prior to his arrest and his close family ties.
Attea did not return a call seeking comment.
The district attorney's office, meanwhile, pointed out the severity of the charges. Ward eventually agreed on the prosecution's bail recommendation.
On Friday, school officials in Randolph released a statement:
"The Randolph Central School District has learned that John Hitchcock, a bus driver for the district, has been charged with sexual abuse of a minor. The District placed Mr. Hitchcock on administrative leave when this matter was first brought to our attention, and it was immediately reported to police authorities. To protect the integrity of the police investigation, the district cannot provide further comment at this time."
Attea noted during arraignment that Hitchcock's full-time work schedule includes a maintenance job at a golf course.
Deputies were assisted in their investigation by the Cattaraugus County Child Advocacy Center in Olean, the Chautauqua County Child Advocacy Program in Jamestown and the Cattaraugus and Chautauqua county district attorney offices.
A pre-motion conference has been scheduled for March 25.