Former King County Judge Jeanette Burrage was found not guilty of assault for slapping a 6-year-old special-needs child while she was working as a school-bus driver.

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A jury found former King County Judge Jeanette Burrage not guilty of fourth-degree assault Thursday for slapping a 6-year-old autistic boy while she was working as a school-bus driver in SeaTac.

The SeaTac Municipal Court jury had deliberated for about a half-hour before reaching the verdict.

“I started crying, I was so happy,” Burrage said of the verdict.

Burrage, who once served as a King County Superior Court judge and Des Moines City Council member, claimed she does not remember the March 10, 2015, incident aboard the bus she was driving for the Highline School District, according to testimony during her 2½-day trial.

A video of the incident was played several times for jurors, who also heard that Burrage joked about district officials seeing the video and coached a bus monitor, who didn’t witness the slap, on what to say in the monitor’s written report.

In Burrage’s own report, she described being hit by first-grader Christian Lyshol but omitted any mention of striking him back, jurors heard.

On Monday, some unexpected drama was injected into the case when it was discovered that Burrage’s elderly aunt had been talking to prospective jurors about the case, though both sides said it did not appear her actions had any impact on the outcome.

Burrage’s attorney, Joe Breidenbach, told jurors during closing arguments Wednesday that Burrage, 63, was so traumatized by being smacked in the face by Christian that she struck back in a “reflexive reaction.”

But he also said Burrage was defending herself from a violent, aggressive child.

“They can’t have it both ways,” Chief Prosecuting Attorney Cindy Corsilles said of Burrage’s defense.

If Burrage’s slap was simply a reflex, that removes intent — an underlying requirement for the assault charge, Corsilles said. But claiming self-defense means the act was intentional and calls into question Burrage’s claim she doesn’t remember what happened, she said.

It was Burrage who got in Christian’s face and when he took a swipe at her, she struck back, Corsilles said.

“I submit to you folks that her behavior immediately after and the things she tried to cover up are the actions of a person who knew they did something wrong,” Corsilles said.

A male juror, who declined to be named, said that based on the court’s instructions, jurors didn’t believe there was enough time for Burrage to form the intent to slap Christian, who is now 7.

“While reviewing the video, we all agreed she did strike him,” the juror said after the verdict was announced. “It was .2 seconds — three frames of the video — between when she got hit and when she struck him. We didn’t think that was enough time to form intent, and it was a reactionary shot.”

Corsilles agreed jurors “struggled with the quickness of her action — they didn’t think she could intentionally do it because she did it so fast.”

“Obviously, I don’t agree,” she added. “You can form intent, even in a split second.”

Burrage resigned from the Des Moines City Council after the incident came to light, and the district fired her.

Christian’s father, Michael Lyshol, said he was disappointed with the verdict and doesn’t think Burrage should get her job back, especially if it involves driving special-needs children.

“If ever I hit a child, all I would have to say is ‘I didn’t intend to’ and I could use the reflex defense,” he said. “We have multiple special-needs kids, and I’ve been slapped plenty of times. My natural reflex isn’t to slap them back.”

Burrage was a state legislator in the early 1980s and served on a select committee on child abuse, according to her online biography. She was a Superior Court judge for five years before losing her re-election bid in 2000. She also unsuccessfully campaigned for seats on the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

“It’s been really, really bad. It’s been horrible,” Burrage said of the past year while the case was pending.

Burrage’s trial almost got derailed during jury selection Monday. According to Christian’s parents and others who were in court, six or seven prospective jurors were dismissed from the 70-member pool because of the behavior of Burrage’s elderly aunt, who traveled from Texas to attend the proceedings.

The aunt sat among the jurors during jury selection and chatted with them about the case and said “the media was hyped and Jeanette is a good person,” Corsilles said.

One juror brought the issue to the attention of Judge Elizabeth Cordi-Bejarano, leading her to the dismiss jurors who had heard the aunt’s comments, she said.

Asked about Burrage’s aunt, Breidenbach said: “She was an elderly lady that got confused and sat in the wrong place. It was a nonevent.”

That’s not the way Elizabeth and Michael Lyshol saw it, though. Christian’s parents saw it as a clear attempt by Burrage’s aunt to taint the jury or postpone the trial had the judge decided to dismiss the jury pool and start the selection process over.

While Corsilles didn’t think the aunt’s actions impacted the case, she said “to me, it speaks volumes” about how some people will try to undermine the legal system.