courthouse Santa Clara County by Drew Penner
Santa Clara County Superior Court Hall of Justice. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

As Shannon O’Connor, the Los Gatos mom charged with throwing illegal parties for teens and facilitating sexual assault, sat in Department 39 of the Santa Clara County Hall of Justice talking to her lawyer, Monday, it wasn’t for the start of the two-week preliminary hearing that had been contemplated.

Because, that event had been officially postponed earlier in the morning, as she was on the way from jail.

“The defense is seeking an offer from the court to resolve the case,” Deputy District Attorney Rebekah Wise told members of the media outside the courtroom, walking the reporters through the new step in the case, commenting, “This process is so confusing.”

O’Connor stands accused of 39 criminal counts relating to gatherings she hosted for teens at the Arroyo Del Rancho Road home she owned with technology executive Robert Amaral, who filed for divorce in January, as well as in Lake Tahoe and Santa Cruz.

When a defendant pleads ‘as charged,’ it essentially takes the control out of the People’s hands

-Rebekah Wise, Deputy District Attorney

After defense lawyer Brian Madden left O’Connor’s side, the Los Gatan asked him to comment on the recent incident that led five women to court, accused of beating up his client while in custody, but he declined.

Madden, as well as Wise, will have the chance to present evidence on Friday, as O’Connor considers pleading to all charges—the way they are currently proposed—as a way to avoid trial and potentially get a better deal than what the District Attorney might be willing to offer.

“When a defendant pleads ‘as charged,’ it essentially takes the control out of the People’s hands,” Wise said, adding she’s preparing to present Judge Elizabeth C. Peterson with plenty of evidence. “The judge is going to hear from the victims and witnesses.”

bike upside down outside the Silicon Valley courthouse
A bike rests upside down outside this Silicon Valley courthouse, April 17. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

It was a similar approach Wise employed successfully in arguing for O’Connor to remain behind bars as the case proceeds—despite her lawyers appealing the decision all the way to the California Supreme Court.

Early in 2022, Judge Johnny C. Gogo heard from several witnesses and people who described being victimized directly by O’Connor.

“The court does find a high likelihood that these charges will be found to be true after a jury trial,” Gogo said at the time.

In addition to witness testimony, Wise said she’ll hand over video and photographic evidence to Judge Peterson.

“We will submit that to her on Friday,” she said. “Defense may submit something on Friday, as well.”

O’Connor is scheduled to appear at 9am on Friday in Department 39, and an additional hearing would be needed for the judge to formally present an offer after considering the evidence, Wise said.

If O’Connor decides to reject such an offer, a new preliminary hearing would be scheduled and her lawyer could try to whittle down some of the charges by negotiating with the DA’s Office.

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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