SAN JOSE, CA – JANUARY 18: Shannon O’Connor is photographed during a bail hearing in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in San Jose, Calif. O’Connor faces 39 criminal counts involving 15 alleged teen victims for a series of parties and gatherings from June 2020 through last May.(Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)
The infamous ‘party mom’ of Los Gatos, told she would be sentenced to 17 years and four months in prison if she pleaded guilty as charged to furnishing liquor to her teen son and his friends and goading them into party hookups with drunk girls, opted Tuesday to take her chances at trial.
Shannon O’Connor, 48, charged with child endangerment and sexual battery, has been jailed without bail since her October 2021 arrest stemming from accusations that she played teen party and romance broker for her son and his high school freshman friends.
In an unusual move, in O’Connor asked Judge Elizabeth C. Peterson last month to tell her what sentence she’d get if she pleaded guilty as charged. The judge privately told lawyers in the case the sentence would be 17 years and four months, and set Tuesday’s hearing for O’Connor to declare her decision.
“It’s my understanding that Ms. O’Connor doesn’t want to avail herself of the court-indicated sentence, is that right?” Judge Peterson asked in court Tuesday, which O’Connor’s lawyer, Brian Madden, affirmed.
Judge Peterson set a preliminary hearing for 9 a.m. Aug. 21. Prosecutors will present evidence which the defense can challenge, and the judge will decide if it’s sufficient to hold a trial.
The judge didn’t indicate in court Tuesday what her “court indicated sentence” was, but Deputy District Attorney Rebekah Wise confirmed outside the courtroom it was 17 years and four months.
That evidently didn’t shave enough off the 20-years-and-four-months maximum sentence to tempt O’Connor to plead guilty.
“We were not able to resolve this case with Judge Peterson,” Madden said after the hearing. “The judge set a date for a preliminary hearing, and the defense will be ready to proceed at that date.”
O’Connor has pleaded innocent to 39 charges, including felony child endangerment and misdemeanor sexual battery and child molestation, which would require her to register as a sex offender if convicted.
Prosecutors say she organized parties for her older son through a prior marriage when he was a Los Gatos High School freshman and ingratiated herself with his friends and social circle. She is accused of using social media to communicate with the teens, providing them alcohol and a place to party and arranging hookups with underage girls. She allegedly used social media to communicate secretly with the teens without their parents’ knowledge and would help them sneak out at night.
Several of the parties got out of hand, with the teens drunk to the point of vomiting, falling and passing out, with some injuries. O’Connor also is accused of prodding the teen boys and girls into sexual encounters that prosecutors allege weren’t always consensual.
Parents of teens sucked into her party scene have been unsparing in their criticism of the harm she did to their kids, and her alleged threats to any she felt wouldn’t keep it a secret. One mother told Judge O’Connor last month’s hearing that O’Connor is “a very sick individual and a sexual predator.”
O’Connor was hospitalized last year after being beaten by fellow inmates in jail, and her second husband, with whom she has a second son, filed for divorce in January.
Wise said there have been no discussions about a plea deal because prosecutors wanted to allow victims to make their case and a judge to consider the evidence before deciding a sentence.
Prosecutors alleged last month that O’Connor had moved to Idaho shortly before her arrest in an attempt to flee justice, had tried to hide assets that could potentially be seized to pay penalties to victims, and struck up a jailhouse romance with another female inmate with whom she had planned a drug-dealing operation.
The district attorney didn’t add new charges related to those latest allegations, but Wise said that is “always possible.”