Sex abuse case resulted in two hung juries
After hung juries in two trials, Dakota County prosecutors are dropping criminal sexual conduct charges against a former Burnsville youth swimming coach.
The case against Alfred John “Rocky” O’Neill was tried in April and November, and won’t be tried a third time after both juries failed to reach a verdict, County Attorney James Backstrom announced Nov. 26.
“It is rare that a jury is unable to reach a verdict in a criminal case, but it does occasionally occur,” Backstrom said in a statement.
In May 2018, the U.S. Center for SafeSport received a report that during 1988 and 1989, a female swimmer had been sexually abused multiple times by O’Neill, her former coach. The incidents allegedly occurred when the swimmer was 17. As coach of the Burnsville Swim Club, O’Neill had coached the girl since she was 14. He allegedly used his “position of authority” to “repeatedly engage her in sexual contact,” the county attorney’s statement said.
The U.S. Center for SafeSport, a mandated reporter charged with investigating and preventing sex abuse in youth and amateur sports, forwarded the allegations to Burnsville police.
O’Neill, now 63, of Savage, pleaded not guilty.
“I want to commend the woman for her courage in talking about these extremely difficult circumstances after so many years and assisting us in two separate criminal trials, which is never easy in cases of this nature,” Backstrom said.
A second criminal case filed against O’Neill was dismissed. It was filed in October 2018, five weeks after the first case was filed. A woman alleged O’Neill had sexually abused her multiple times while he coached her in 1997 and 1998. She was 16 and 17 at the time.
“Based upon evidentiary issues that arose in this second case following the initial filing of these charges, we determined that we could no longer prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt,” Backstrom said.