A former Clark County School District special education bus driver was ordered to serve 35 years to life in prison Wednesday for sexually assaulting young children on his route.
While Michael Banco, 58, initially faced 41 counts, he pleaded guilty last month to one count each of sexual assault with a minor under 16 and lewdness with a child under 14. Prosecutors said surveillance video showed Banco sexually assaulting children who were 3 and 4 years old.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Sam Martinez referred to the crimes as “by far the most horrific case” he has handled in 10 years as a prosecutor. In a hushed tone, District Judge Elissa Cadish called the facts “incomprehensible,” shaking her head.
Martinez said he expects Banco to die behind bars.
Even Banco’s public defender, Kathleen Hamers, said it was “obviously a horrible case, and these girls did nothing to deserve this,” while asking for a sliver of hope that he would one day be able to see his own children outside prison walls.
The judge handed down the maximum sentence.
On three separate days, a surveillance camera recorded images of Banco molesting and assaulting “very small” children in the back of a bus before dropping them off at home after school, authorities said at the time of his 2015 arrest.
Banco, who according to Transparent Nevada started working for the school district in 1995, was responsible for 20 students on his route throughout the Las Vegas Valley. As he dropped them off to their parents, he lectured them about appropriate behavior with adults.
“His actions were so depraved, so horrible,” Martinez said. “He knew exactly what he was doing … These little girls will have to live with this the rest of their lives.”
A mother of one of the girls said her daughter still has nightmares.
“This is not something any family should have to go through or endure,” she told the judge. “But we are a strong family, and we will get through it.”
A grandmother of one of the victims, a 3-year-old girl at the time of the attacks, called her a hero for telling the family about what Banco had done. The woman wept as she told Banco that she used her faith to find forgiveness, but she could never forget what he had done.
“This man has destroyed my granddaughter,” she said, turning toward the judge. “How do we get past that? I don’t know what else to do, but hug her. That’s all I have.”