BELLEFONTAINE, Ohio (AP) – A school superintendent charged with child rape for allegedly assaulting a young girl accepted a plea deal Wednesday as his trial was set to begin in western Ohio.
Patrick O’Donnell, the former superintendent for Indian Lake Local Schools in Logan County, entered an Alford plea to a charge of gross sexual imposition in a courtroom in Bellefontaine, roughly 60 miles (97 kilometers) northwest of Columbus. The plea by the 52-year-old former superintendent means he doesn’t admit to the charge but acknowledges there’s enough evidence to convict him.
O’Donnell had pleaded not guilty to charges including rape of a child younger than 13, sexual battery and gross sexual imposition.
Prosecutors say the deal was approved by the girl, who was not a student in the district. The district fired O’Donnell in November.
A court affidavit said the child alleged O’Donnell touched her inappropriately and his wife, who also is a superintendent, failed to report the allegations to police.
Patrick O’Donnell’s attorney, Sam Shamansky, said Wednesday that the plea was in the best interests of everyone involved, and “particularly desirable given the circumstances.” Shamansky said his client would have faced the possibility of a life sentence, which would have been mandatory if a jury had convicted him of the rape charge.
Heather O’Donnell, superintendent of Midwest Regional Education Services Center in Bellefontaine, had pleaded not guilty to child endangering charges, which were dropped under her husband’s plea deal. O’Donnell has been on leave from her job pending the case’s outcome.
A message seeking comment from Heather O’Donnell’s attorney, Dennis Pergram, was left at his office bWednesday.
Patrick O’Donnell now faces a sentence ranging from probation to up to five years in prison, Shamansky said. He also must register as a sex offender.
No sentencing date was set.