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Man charged with assaulting woman on bus

Joseph A. Zeh, 53, also indicted on one unrelated sexual abuse of a minor count

Posted: November 9, 2012 - 1:05am

Editor’s note: The following story contains a description of an alleged crime of a sexual nature. Readers are encouraged to use their own discretion when deciding whether to read this article.

A man has been charged with sexual assault for allegedly groping a woman with Down’s syndrome on a city bus in Juneau last month.

Joseph A. Zeh, 53, was indicted by a Juneau grand jury last Friday on one count of third-degree sexual assault, a felony. The charge encompasses having sexual contact with a person who is mentally incapable, according to the indictment.

According to charging documents, a man approached the woman on the bus and told her to move from her aisle seat. When she refused, he reached down between her legs and began touching her vaginal area on the outside of her pants, according to charging documents.

The woman became upset and told him to stop, then moved to the back of the bus, documents show. The woman’s name and age were withheld in court documents, although an affidavit indicates she is an adult.

Prosecutors say the Oct. 17 incident was observed by a third-party on the bus, who is identified in court documents as Joseph Drummer.

Drummer verbally reprimanded the man for his actions on the bus, and then later identified the man as Zeh in a police photo line-up, as did the woman.

Charging documents also show that a surveillance video camera on the bus captured the man reaching over towards the woman, but did not show the woman’s lap area. The video also shows the woman moving to the back of the bus and Drummer talking to the man.

Police contacted and interviewed Zeh about the incident, and Zeh maintained his innocence. An affidavit filed by Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Polasky said Zeh recalled seeing “a handicapped girl” on the bus, but said he never put his hands on anyone.

In addition to the felony charge, the district attorney’s office also charged Zeh with a misdemeanor harassment charge for offensive physical contact by touching through clothing.

Zeh was also indicted on a second sexual assault charge in connection to an unrelated case during in the same time frame, according to the Nov. 2 indictment.

That charge was one count of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor, also a felony, for allegedly touching the genital area of a girl under 13 years of age on Oct. 19, charging documents allege.

More information about that case was not immediately available.

Zeh is scheduled to be arraigned on the felony charges in Juneau Superior Court today.

Prosecutors said Zeh has a criminal history in and out of state.

Polasky said in the affidavit that Zeh was convicted of drinking while driving in North Carolina in 2011; misdemeanor breaking or entering and misdemeanor larceny in North Carolina in 2008; theft, violating conditions of release and reckless driving in Petersburg, Alaska, in 2005; and burglary, fraudulent use of a credit card and theft in Juneau in 2000.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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