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Former Pasco school bus aide pleads guilty to battery of boy with autism

James Lambert will go to jail for a year
Posted: 6:00 PM, Jun 15, 2016
Updated: 2016-06-16 02:44:24-04

A former Pasco County school bus aide caught on a bus surveillance camera hitting a boy with autism in 2014 was sentenced on Wednesday to 11 months, 29 days of jail time.

The sentence for James Lambert, 59, came as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors who were originally seeking harsher charges.

"It's always been our contention that Mr. Lambert did not commit the crimes of child abuse," said Lambert's attorney Matthew Kindel to ABC Action News outside the Pasco County courthouse in New Port Richey after today's ruling. 

"We never contested the acts or that he was the person that didn’t do it. It was whether these offenses rose to level of child abuse," said Kindel.

If Lambert had been found guilty of two counts of child abuse, as he was originally charged, he could have gone to prison for up to 10 year. Instead, Lambert pled guilty to two counts of battery, misdemeanor charges that will run concurrently. If Lambert breaks probation in the year following his sentence he could have to serve a second year in jail.

Part of the plea agreement requires Lambert to take an anger management course, under a psychological evaluation and write a letter to the victim's family apologizing for the crimes.

He's also forbidden from employment and volunteer work with the Pasco County school system.

In court today, the victim's mother, Lori Lamb, says her son has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of the violence at the hands of the man known to the kids as "Mr. Jim."

"Something should be done not just to Mr. Lambert but everybody who hurts children, special needs children, because I know this is going to take a long time for him to deal with it," Lamb told the judge during the hearing today.

After the hearing, Lamb told ABC Action News she was okay with the plea deal because it guarantees that Lambert serves time behind bars.

Lambert told the judge today that he never learned to read, and never graduated high school. His attorney said Lambert also has a learning disability and probably shouldn't have been put in a position to care for children.

Her family might also sue the school system for putting Lambert in charge of kids.

Lori Lamb says she'll be seeking a civil suit against Lambert for damages as well.

"I want [my son] Jeffrey to have his whole life turned around for the better, and have doctors and treatments and whatever he needs," Lamb told ABC Action News after today's hearing.