Santa Clara County Superior Court
Santa Clara County Superior Court. Photo: Drew Penner/Los Gatan

Had she gone for it, the Los Gatos mother likely could have wrapped up at least two of her court cases.

But on Tuesday afternoon, Shannon O’Connor officially rejected a 17-year, four-month sentence offered by Judge Elizabeth C. Peterson in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

O’Connor, who faces up to 20 years behind bars for 39 charges, including child endangerment and misdemeanor sexual assault, related to parties she reportedly threw for teens in Los Gatos, and elsewhere, was led into the courtroom in the multi-layered green-and-lighter-green attire issued by the Elmwood Woman’s Correctional Facility, where she’s been living for months.

“We held a previous hearing in this matter,” noted Peterson, reflecting on the emotional witness testimony provided April 21.

A preliminary inquiry had been scheduled to begin that week, but instead O’Connor shifted her defense strategy, asking the judge how much time she would get if she agreed to plead to all charges—what’s called a court-indicated sentence.

That’s different than a plea deal, which is a negotiation between the defense and prosecution, usually involving one or more charges being dropped in exchange for a conviction.

“It is my understanding that Ms. O’Connor does not want to avail herself of that court-indicated sentence,” Judge Peterson said.

Defense lawyer Brian Madden confirmed that to be the case.

O’Connor would’ve had to register as a sex offender.

And while the defendant declined the 17-year offer, she didn’t reject it outright, according to Deputy District Attorney Rebekah Wise.

Wise confirmed O’Connor didn’t immediately turn down the judge’s offer, at a private meeting, held May 5, although she didn’t want to speculate on what may have caused her to ultimately say no.

The DA’s Office only learned “recently” that O’Connor wouldn’t take the 17 years.

At least some victims and their families had been hoping she would accept, so they wouldn’t have to testify again.

And now, the legal process moves onwards.

A case management conference is to be held Aug. 17, at 1:30pm, with a preliminary inquiry planned for the week of August 21.

When the Los Gatan caught up with him after the hearing, Madden declined to comment.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Wise explained about the name of this infrequently employed judicial element.

“It’s called an ‘indicated sentence’ because if the judge finds out something after sentencing that makes her think that her indicated sentence is not appropriate, for some reason, she’s always able to essentially change her mind,” she said. “I think the victims and their families are very appreciative of having (had) the opportunity for the court to hear their position—and hear how this case has affected them—before the court gave the indicated sentence, now that the defendant has declined to take that offer. They are now just looking forward.”

Wise told the Los Gatan because the court has already confiscated $600,000 from the sale of O’Connor’s mansion for potential restitution, fines and fees in her criminal matters, had she agreed to the 17-year offer, it’s likely they could have dealt with both of those cases at once.

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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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