Bus rape suspects may be tried as adults.

HAMILTON – Two Lakota freshmen students accused of sexually assaulting a male classmate on a school bus came a step closer Thursday to being tried as adults.

Judge David Niehaus of Butler County Juvenile Court ruled there was enough evidence to support charges against the 15-year-old boys.

The teens next will undergo psychological evaluations to help determine whether the juvenile corrections system is sufficient to rehabilitate them if they are convicted.

Niehaus set a June 23 hearing to decide whether the cases are sent to a grand jury to try the boys as adults.

One of the students faces a charge of complicity to rape for allegedly pulling down the pants of a 15-year-old classmate and holding him down March 23 while the second teen assaulted the boy with a pencil. The second teen is charged with rape and sexual imposition.

Defense attorneys have characterized the incident as common "horseplay" among the boys.

Attorney Ken Lawson, who represents the teen charged with rape, suggested that the alleged victim consented to the assault because he didn’t say "no."

"They can’t say it’s a rape. The alleged victim didn’t consider it one," Lawson told Niehaus. "He did not say he did not give consent or permission, or that he did not play along with these people. Witnesses said they always play like this."

The teens were released Tuesday from juvenile detention but are being monitored electronically and must stay at home. Niehaus gave permission Thursday for one of the boys to go to church on Sunday.

The bus incident was the first of three sex cases involving Lakota students or teachers in recent months.

Angela Johnson, a Lakota East High School teacher, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a felony charge of attempted sexual battery. Police said she tried to lure an 18-year-old male student into sex.

A ninth-grader at Lakota Freshman School was expelled last week and faces third-degree misdemeanor charges after he was accused of inappropriately touching a female student.

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