The trial against two local superintendents charged in connection with child sexual abuse allegations started Tuesday.
Patrick O’Donnell, former superintendent at Indian Lake Schools, and Heather O’Donnell, superintendent at the Midwest Regional Educational Service Center, appeared in Logan County Common Pleas Court, where attorneys asked a room full of potential jurors questions in an attempt to seat a jury.
Patrick O’Donnell faces felony charges that include rape-child under 13, sexual battery and gross sexual imposition. He’s pleaded not guilty to the charges. The Indian Lake Local Schools fired him from his position in November. The alleged victim in the case wasn’t a student at the district.
His wife, Heather O’Donnell, is charged with two counts of child endangering. Washington Twp. Police Chief Rick Core said in an affidavit that the girl told Heather O’Donnell about the alleged abuse and she allegedly didn’t report it to authorities.
Heather O’Donnell has pleaded not guilty. She has been placed on paid leave from her job, pending outcome of the case.
Attorney Sam Shamansky, representing Patrick O’Donnell, asked potential jurors if they agree with the American judicial system and whether they would be able to give Patrick O’Donnell a fair trial.
“Do you believe if there is smoke, there is fire?” Shamansky asked a potential juror.
Just because the O’Donnells have been charged, he said, doesn’t mean they’re guilty.
“I have to be able to trust you are willing to do the right thing,” he said to the jury pool.
Logan County Prosecutor Eric Stewart also asked the potential jurors whether they can be fair.
He also questioned them about whether jurors can accept a victim’s testimony if that victim didn’t report the crime immediately. He asked jurors if their kids have ever lied or not been completely truthful.
Defense attorney Dennis Pergram, representing Heather O’Donnell, asked jurors if they have heard of the case and asked jurors not to rely on media reports but what is said and testified to in court.
The trial is taking place in the basement of the Bellefontaine Masonic Lodge due to ongoing repairs at the Logan County courthouse. Opening arguments are expected Wednesday.