O’Donnell: The victim is right

Patrick O’Donnell finally came clean Monday when he admitted his accuser was telling the truth.

odonnell farewell

Patrick O’Donnell with attorney Samuel Shamansky at his side acknowledges his family and friends after his sentencing Monday and before he was led into the Logan County Jail. (EXAMINER PHOTOS | JOEL E. MAST)

“I accept her version of what happened,” the former school administrator told Logan County Common Pleas Judge William T. Goslee during a sentencing hearing for gross sexual imposition, “and I am sorry for what I did.”

In the midst of the sentencing, Judge Goslee stated two different versions of the case were presented to him as part of pre-sentence investigation and he believed that O’Donnell was continuing to deny what had happened.

It was then that O’Donnell stood up with his attorney Samuel Shamansky and provided clear admission of guilt. Previously, he clung to an Alford stipulation in which he pleaded guilty while maintaining his innocence.

According to the victim, now 14, O’Donnell began fondling her when she was 9 or 10 and progressed quickly to more intimate sexual conduct.

His assaults continued until she was 13 with a brief respite in late 2016 after she told the defendant’s wife, Heather, about the acts.

However, according to the bill of particulars outlining the victim’s allegations, O’Donnell again sexually assaulted her in a hot tub at an Indian Lake residence on June 10, 2017.

The victim got out of tub immediately and went inside where Heather O’Donnell, without prompting, asked the victim, “Did he touch you again?” “Yes,” the victim responded.

heather reacts

Heather O’Donnell weeps during her husband Patrick O’Donnell’s sentencing on Monday.

“I’ll ask him to stop,” Heather O’Donnell said, according to the bill of particulars. Additionally, the victim said Heather O’Donnell told her there are worse things that have happened to other children.

It was the final straw for the victim, who said she finally mustered the courage to tell her father about the abuse.

She had kept it to herself, the victim told Judge Goslee on Monday, partly out of fear no one would believe her and partly because she was made to feel she was over reacting.

“What I have learned from this is that every child or adult who has faced something like this needs to speak up because, if not, in the end it’ll hurt you more,” she said in court. “Also I’ve learned that if you tell someone and they don’t do anything then tell another because you deserve to be protected.

“I encourage victims of this abuse to speak up and fight for their happiness.”

O’Donnell, 52, was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison on a single third-degree count of gross sexual imposition. He pleaded guilty with Alford stipulations to the charge in early February to avoid a trial.

He was declared a Tier II sex offender and will be required to register twice a year for 25 years.

In exchange, Logan County Prosecutor Eric Stewart dropped other criminal charges including rape and dismissed a child endangering case against O’Donnell’s wife, Heather, 47.

The victim, accompanied by her father, an aunt and her brothers, said she agreed to the plea deal as it put O’Donnell in prison. She also believes Heather O’Donnell has suffered enough as her actions have cut her off from her children.

Both O’Donnells served as superintendents. He was with Indian Lake Local School District and she was with the Midwest Regional Educational Service Center.

He was fired from his position, but has appealed the move, claiming the board of education did not handle it properly. A referee’s ruling supporting O’Donnell is currently before Judge Goslee as an administrative appeal.

Judge Goslee will issue a ruling later this year.

As for Heather O’Donnell, she was placed on unpaid leave with MRESC and she has since resigned.