Man sentenced to 8 years for assault of pregnant NJ TRANSIT bus driver

A Union Township man has been sentenced to eight years in state prison for physically assaulting a pregnant, on-duty NJ TRANSIT bus driver in downtown Elizabeth earlier this year, acting Union County Prosecutor Jennifer Davenport announced Friday.

Andre Dawson III, 39, had pleaded guilty nearly two months ago to a charge of third-degree aggravated assault.

At approximately 4:35 p.m. on Monday, January 28, Elizabeth Police Department officers responded to the area of North Broad Street and Westfield Avenue on a report of an assault to find the victim suffering from bumps, cuts, and bruises at the scene, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor David Hummel, who prosecuted the case. The bus driver was transported to Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth for treatment of her injuries, Hummel said.  

An investigation by Elizabeth Police Department Detectives Paul Tillotson and James Szpond, as well as New Jersey Transit Police Department Detectives Ruben Mendez, Mike Valido, and Jonathan White resulted in Dawson being identified as a suspect in the case, and he was arrested without incident on Wednesday, February 13, then lodged in Union County Jail.

The victim, now approximately seven months pregnant, read a statement into the record during Friday’s sentencing hearing as about two dozen NJ TRANSIT colleagues who were present to support her looked on. She described the attack as causing both physical and emotional distress, noting that she had only just recently returned to work.

“I cried the whole night,” she said of the period just after the assault. “It was a nightmare I could not wake up from. I didn’t know how to explain to my daughter what happened.”

Hummel noted that Dawson has been arrested more than 40 times in his life, has 13 felony convictions, had been out of prison for barely four months when the attack took place, and was arrested and charged with committing a burglary in Elizabeth less than a month after being released following his February arrest, pending Friday’s sentencing.

Third-degree crimes are typically punishable by three to five years in state prison, but Dawson was eligible for an extended term, having been designated a persistent offender.

“Society needs to be protected from this defendant,” Hummel said, noting that Dawson himself described the assault as occurring because “she (the victim) got an attitude with me.”

“There’s nothing that she could have said,” Walsh remarked, “that meant she deserved being beaten about the head.”

Dawson apologized to the victim prior to sentencing, saying he “wasn’t in (his) right mind” at the time of the incident due to being intoxicated, although Hummel pointed out that today marked the first time the defendant had made that claim.