The courtroom was packed Monday with supporters of both the victim and O’Donnell.
The now 14-year-old girl, who isn’t a student in the Indian Lake district, spoke about the assaults and how she was afraid to speak up. The alleged abuse began when she was 9, she said in court, and continued until she was 13.
The victim said she’s relieved O’Donnell has been sentenced and will now concentrate on moving forward and wants to help other victims of abuse. She encouraged them to speak up and tell someone, and to keep trying if they aren’t believed at first.
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“I can help people, just show that you go through hard things but you learn from them and move on and become stronger,” she said.
O’Donnell apologized in court and spoke about how the case has affected him, his wife and their family.
“I am extremely sorry for what I did,” he said.
O’Donnell said he’s been punished, including going to jail, losing custody of his daughters, registering as a sex offender and affecting his finances negatively.
“I love my wife and all six of my kids and feel the healing process needs to start right away,” he said.
More than 30 people gathered outside of the courtroom in support of O’Donnell, including Marvin Givens his friend of more than 25 years. He was surprised when the charges were first filed.
“I was very, I guess taken aback. I was in disbelief,” Givens said. “I mean obviously I understand things can happen, people can do stuff that you don’t expect them to.”
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But Givens said he doesn’t believe O’Donnell is capable of committing the crimes.
Indian Lake fired O’Donnell last year and he sued to get his job back, arguing the board of education should have waited until his criminal case was concluded before taking action. That case remains open in the Logan County Common Pleas Court, according to the court’s website.
His wife, Heather O’Donnell — who was a superintendent at Midwest Regional Educational Service Center — also was indicted on child endangering charges in connection with the case, according to court records. The girl allegedly told Heather O’Donnell about the accusations, Washington Twp. Police Chief Rick Core said, but Heather O’Donnell didn’t tell police.
The charges against her were dropped last month as part of Patrick O’Donnell’s plea deal.