Exclusive: Los Gatos ‘party mom’ indicted by grand jury, clearing way for trial

Exclusive: Los Gatos ‘party mom’ indicted by grand jury, clearing way for trial

A Santa Clara County criminal grand jury has indicted the so-called Los Gatos “party mom” on more than five dozen felony and misdemeanor charges, clearing the path to trial for Shannon O’Connor, who is alleged to have endangered teens with liquor-fueled gatherings where she goaded them into sex.

The indictment filed on Monday charges O’Connor, 49, with 20 felony counts mostly covering child endangerment and aiding and abetting sexual assault — several more than she faced under the initial filing two years ago. The indictment also includes 43 misdemeanor counts based on accusations she furnished alcohol to minors. It follows multiple delays of a preliminary hearing in O’Connor’s case, in which a judge would have decided whether there was sufficient evidence to go to trial.

Now with the indictment, the case bypasses the preliminary examination and moves more rapidly to trial. O’Connor, who has been held in Santa Clara County Jail since October 2021, was scheduled to appear in court Monday for the latest preliminary hearing. That court appearance will now be an arraignment on the indictment charges.

Deputy District Attorney Rebekah Wise said her office wanted to shield the victims in the case, all minors at the time the alleged crimes were reported in 2020, from having to travel to court and prepare for testimony only to be sent home because of another delay, and have to go through that cycle all over again.

“The preliminary (hearing) had been pushed back multiple times, and for the minor victims, their anxiety gets ramped up. We’re retraumatizing them by getting them thinking they’re going to the hearing and then it gets continued,” Wise told this news organization.

“These crimes were committed in 2020, and it took a year to file (charges), and it’s been two years since her arrest, so that’s three years since these crimes,” she added. “For the victims and their healing process, having this hang over their head, we just needed for their sake to get past this preliminary point. Now what we’re looking forward to is the jury trial.”

According to the indictment, 17 reported victims — listed as John and Jane Does — testified at the grand jury hearing. The hearing is held in secret and run entirely by the prosecution without the involvement of the defendant’s counsel or any cross examination of witnesses.

In the past two years, O’Connor’s path to the preliminary examination has been beset by delays for wide range of reasons, most recently in August when a medical issue — thought to have been spider bites or an MRSA skin infection — prompted a continuance.

Back in April, just as the hearing was supposed to get underway, O’Connor asked the judge to reveal what sentence she’d receive if she pleaded guilty as charged. That led to a hearing in which prosecutors presented evidence from the teen victims and their parents on how O’Connor had harmed them.

The judge in May said O’Connor’s sentence would be 17 years and four months if she pleaded guilty to the initial charges — just shy of the 20-year maximum. O’Connor opted to proceed with the preliminary hearing that was rescheduled to August, then subsequently pushed to next week.

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The charges against O’Connor in the indictment are also more voluminous than those filed by in the fall of 2021. There are 24 new counts, which Wise said resulted from subsequent reviews of the same evidence that underpinned the earlier charges. Many of the additional counts come from new victims identified in the same alleged misconduct.

Wise said the higher number of charges increases the defendant’s potential prison exposure, but by how much was not immediately clear Monday.

Two new charges in the indictment involve previously uncharged allegations that O’Connor aided a minor being sexually penetrated while intoxicated, ostensibly by furnishing alcohol at the now-infamous parties. A third new charge accuses O’Connor of dissuading an underage witness from talking to police following an alleged drunken joyriding incident in which authorities say O’Connor let her son drive her car in a school parking lot, when one of the son’s friends who had been hanging off the back of the vehicle fell off and suffered a concussion.

Following the indictment Monday, O’Connor was ordered to stay in jail without bail. But the indictment also gives her and her attorney an opportunity to re-argue for affordable bail or supervised release.

Wise voiced some relief that the case against O’Connor appears to be moving more swiftly.

“We are just moving one step closer to a trial, where we get to ultimately hold her accountable for what she has done to these kids and this community,” Wise said.