Sixth District Court of Appeal Says State Constitution Does Not Mandate Release of Woman Charged
With Indirectly Causing Acts of Violence, Including Sexual Battery, Upon Intoxicated Minors
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Sixth District Court of Appeal, declining to heed a signal from the California Supreme Court that it leans toward the view that a woman charged with felony child endangerment, sexual battery and child molestation and other crimes is entitled by the state Constitution to a release on bail, declared on Friday that she is to remain in custody, denying her bid for a writ of habeas corpus.
According to the charges—including 39 offenses affecting 15 victims, all minors—she indirectly caused acts of violence, Presiding Justice Mary J. Greenwood wrote, adding that the evidence is hefty that she committed offenses that are exempt from the usual bail requirement, and that and it’s evident that if she’s freed, she would be apt to commit acts similar to those with which she is charged,
It is alleged that between June 2020 to May 2021, O’Connor hosted parties attended by her son and other teenagers and that she encouraged them to consume copious amounts of alcohol, sometimes inducing unconsciousness, and to commit sexual acts.
Pictured above is Marie Shannon O’Connor, listening in a courtroom in Oct. 20, 2021 in San Jose. She is charged with felony child endangerment and other crimes. The Sixth District Court of Appeal on Friday denied her bid to be released on bail.
The Sixth District on April 6 summarily denied her writ petition. The California Supreme Court on June 22 granted review, bouncing the case back to the Court of Appeal, ordering it to “vacate its summary denial” and to “issue an order to show cause, returnable before” it. The high court added, citing Art. I, §12 of the state Constitution:
“The Sheriff of Santa Clara County is to be ordered to show cause why relief should not be granted on the grounds (1) petitioner has not been charged with ‘[f]elony offenses involving acts of violence on another person, or felony sexual assault offenses on another person’…and (2) if it is the case she has not been charged with any such qualifying offenses, she ‘shall be released on bail’….”
Sec. 12 provides:
“A person shall be released on bail by sufficient sureties, except for: [¶]…[¶] b) Felony offenses involving acts of violence on another person, or felony sexual assault offenses on another person, when the facts are evident or the presumption great and the court finds based upon clear and convincing evidence that there is a substantial likelihood the person’s release would result in great bodily harm to others….”
Those requirements, Greenwood declared, are met, saying that Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Johnny Cepeda Gogo did not abuse his discretion in denying bail.
The fact that O’Connor is not accused of personally committing violent acts, she said, is not significant because she allegedly caused such acts. The presiding judge noted that in 2020, the California Supreme Court held in In re White that a man who knew a cohort intended to commit rape and facilitated that by acting as a look-out was not entitled to bail on the ground that he committed no act of violence (though he did have such entitlement because there was not a showing that he would be a danger if released).
“We deduce that because the Legislature declined to enumerate specific offenses in section 12(b), the drafters must have intended the broad phrase, ‘[f]elony offenses involving acts of violence on another person’, to encompass conduct beyond ‘violent felonies’ that are defined in and can be charged under the Penal Code. This interpretation of section 12(b) is also supported by the ordinary meaning of ‘involving,’ since the dictionary definition includes ‘to engage as a participant,’ ‘to oblige to take part,’ ‘to have within or as part of itself,’ or ‘to relate closely.’…Thus, an ‘act of violence on another person’ is defined as an act using physical force to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy another person.
“Applying the dictionary definitions, the ordinary meaning of the phrase ‘felony offenses involving an act of violence on another person’ in section 12(b) may be understood to include felony offenses committed by a direct participant in the act of using physical force to injure another person. However, the phrase ‘felony offenses involving an act of violence on another person’ may also include an indirect participant—one whose felony offense is ‘related closely’ to an act of violence that injured another person.”
She pointed out that according to an investigator’s report, O’Connor encouraged “sexual assaults and reckless conduct by the intoxicated minors that resulted in serious injuries.”
The jurist went on to say that “the statement of facts and declaration submitted by the district attorney’s investigator, from which we have drawn the facts underlying O’Connor’s 12 qualifying offenses of child endangerment constitute a proffer of evidence” that, if accepted, would support a conviction.
Differentiating the situation from that in White, Greenwood said that “substantial evidence supports the trial court’s finding of a substantial likelihood that that O’Connor’s release would result in great bodily harm to members of the public,” pointing out:
“The evidence shows that O’Connor manipulated the minor victims through social media contacts to attend many secret parties where she provided large quantities of alcohol so that the minors would become intoxicated and be subject to physical impairment and sexual assault. O’Connor also successfully deceived the minor victim’s parents, school authorities, and law enforcement on many occasions in her efforts to conceal her activities. She intentionally prevented parents and other authorities from knowing about her harmful interactions with the minors and thus effectively thwarted any intervention that responsible adults could have employed to protect the minors. After her arrest, O’Connor continued her pattern of conduct by dissuading witnesses, including her son John Doe 3….”
The case is In re O’Connor, 2023 S.O.S. 10.
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