Shannon O’Connor, the wife of tech executive Robert Amaral, who threw parties for teens at their Arroyo Del Rancho Road mansion, spent Christmas behind bars, after being called a threat to public safety and a high flight risk by prosecutors.

She’s been charged with 39 crimes connected to her behavior with teens, but she also faces a defamation lawsuit brought by Los Gatos attorney Carlos Martinez.

According to the civil suit, filed Oct. 12, 2021 in Santa Clara County Superior Court, O’Connor—who also goes by the last name Bruga—helped spread the rumor that a local boy sexually assaulted a girl, calling him a “rapist” and a “sexual predator.”

Sherri Hammond, aka Sherri Mullin, as well as Jennifer and Daniella Blomquist, are named as co-defendants.

“Minor learned that Defendants made statements to other individuals accusing Minor, by words and effect, of being a ‘rapist’ and a ‘sexual predator’ and committing acts of sexual assault against minor aged women,” the suit states.

O’Connor ‘sought to casue harm to minor…by spreading her false, fabricated, and fictional defamatory statement to others…(she) was hosting parties for’


According to the action, the statements hurt his reputation “in the community, and at school and exposed him to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or shame” and “caused individuals who heard or read the statements or who the statements were spread to, to threaten harm and/or violence” against the boy.

This “targeted campaign” began around May 2019, and O’Connor enlisted her own son for the task, according to the lawsuit.

“Bruga further sought to cause harm to Minor by spreading her false, fabricated, and fictional defamatory statements to others including teenagers, upon information and belief, that Bruga was hosting parties for,” it states.

According to the lawsuit, the plot began when Hammond and her friend Jennifer Wernick “came up with the idea of repeating the false, fabricated, and fictional defamatory statements about Minor to Defendant…under the mistaken belief that Bruga was a ‘mandatory reporter,’” who would be required to make a police report if she learned about a sex assault.

“Hammond…wanted Bruga to make a false report about Minor with the intent of having the police make an arrest of Minor on the basis of the false report,” the action claims. “The conduct of Defendant Sherri Hammond was outrageous.”

Shannon O'Connor los gatos district attorney crime charges shannon bruga
Shannon O’Connor (handout)

The lawsuit seeks more than $100,000 in “special and general damages,” punitive damages and legal fees, on behalf of the guardian of the plaintiff.

On Dec. 3, O’Connor fired back, through her attorney Alison Crane, saying the case shouldn’t be allowed to go forward because what she said— if she said these things at all—“were expressions of opinion,” and “Defendant believed them to be true at the time they were made.”

This sort of speech is protected by both the First Amendment and California’s constitution, according to O’Connor’s legal team.

O'Connor / Amaral residence
Shannon O’Connor and Robert Amaral’s Los Gatos mansion. (File Photo)

According to the amended complaint, in connection with which O’Connor currently sits behind bars, she not only helped teens sneak out of their homes in the middle of the night to party with her, she also used lies and intimidation to get her way.

O’Connor “told all the children who attended parties at her residence or were given alcohol to keep the parties a secret. She told them if anyone found out, she could go to jail,” according to prosecutors. “In August of 2020, Defendant believed Jane Doe 5 (aged 14) was not keeping her crimes secret and was telling people about the parties. As a result, Defendant threatened to spread rumors about her.”

O’Connor followed this up by “repeatedly harassing” her, demanding she confess to telling people about the parties, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office said.

Shannon Bruga aka Shannon O'Connor
Shannon O’Connor aka Shannon Bruga. (handout).

“Defendant also threatened to tell the other children that Jane Doe 5 made mean comments about a friend of hers, John Doe 5,” the amended complaint claims. “Jane Doe 5 was scared. She knew Defendant had spread rumors about other children in the past, and she did not want to lose her friends.”

O’Connor’s tactic worked, prosecutors said.

“Jane Doe 5 began suffering panic attacks,” the complaint states. “She had to sleep in her parents’ room.”

A few weeks later, O’Connor rented a house in the 20th Avenue area of Santa Cruz, and set up a group Snapchat message titled “…Birthday Bash,” where she asked what kind of alcohol the children wanted to drink, according to prosecutors.

She even said she had to approve any girls the teens wanted to bring along, the DA’s office added, noting video shows around 12 minor boys and girls attended the rager—which left $9,000-worth of damages to the rental.

At the end of the month, her Halloween party was so out of control it attracted around 20 children and caused a girl to require surgery for a broken right pinky finger, the DA’s office said.

That December, a girl referred to as Jane Doe 4 in court papers, was drunk and laying on a bed in Amaral and O’Connor’s estate, according to the complaint, which notes O’Connor found a boy who was drunk, too, gave him a condom and pushed him into the bedroom with her.

She fled to the bathroom and locked the door, prosecutors said.

O’Connor’s next bail hearing has been set for Jan. 18, with a plea hearing on the calendar for March 4.

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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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