Thirty-nine-year-old school bus driver Todd Hezlitt knew the girl he started having sex with in October 2011 was underage and it didn't stop him, Deputy Pima County Attorney Alan Goodwin told jurors Tuesday.
When Hezlitt met the girl, she said she was 18. But the pair didn't start having sex until later, after she told him she was 16 - which was also a lie. She was actually 15, Goodwin said.
Tuesday was the first day in Hezlitt's trial in Pima County Superior Court.
Goodwin told jurors in his opening statement that Hezlitt was driving a school bus for the Altar Valley School District when he met the alleged victim, who often took his bus home from after-school activities.
The girl will testify how their relationship progressed to a sexual one, Goodwin said. The jurors will also read sexually explicit text messages between the two and hear them discuss their relationship during a phone conversation secretly recorded by the Pima County Sheriff's Department.
Those texts and the call will show there was no way Hezlitt didn't know he was having sex with a minor, Goodwin said.
In one of the text messages, Hezlitt tells the girl he will scream he loves her once they could go public with their relationship, Goodwin said. In another, he asks the girl if she would be able to "get away with it" if he bought her a ring.
During the secretly recorded conversation, the girl was encouraged by a detective to accuse Hezlitt of cheating on her, Goodwin told jurors. Hezlitt denied it and asked her why she would think that.
The girl told him she wouldn't blame him for cheating since she was only 15 and he was 38, Goodwin said.
Instead of expressing shock at hearing her age, Goodwin simply told her, "I would not do that to you," Goodwin said.
Defense attorney Chris Kimminau reserved his opening statement for a later.
Hezlitt was arrested in April 2012 on charges of sexual conduct with a minor.
Jurors do not know it, but Hezlitt fled to Mexico with the alleged victim in late May and wasn't caught until late July when the girl turned herself in to the U.S. Consulate in Mazatlan.
Deputies received information Hezlitt was with the girl at Marana High School's graduation on May 24. When they went to arrest him for failing to comply with the rules imposed after he was released from jail, he was gone.
He was indicted Feb. 1 on the felony charge of custodial interference and is facing a separate trial in that case.
Judge Richard Fields is presiding over the current trial.
On StarNet: Follow the news and events at Pima County's courthouses in Kim Smith's blog, At the Courthouse, at azstarnet.com/courthouse
Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or firstname.lastname@example.org On StarNet: Follow courthouse news in Kim Smith's blog, At the Courthouse, at azstarnet.com/ courthouse