State Representative Mike O'Neal charged with sexual battery

Tuesday, February 24th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- State Rep. Mike O'Neal and his attorney had no comment Tuesday after the Enid Republican was charged with sexual battery after allegedly groping a woman at a motel lounge.

The felony charge, filed by Oklahoma County District Attorney Wes Lane, is linked to a 42-year-old woman's allegations O'Neal made a vulgar remark to her and then grabbed her buttocks.

An arrest warrant was issued for O'Neal, who did not attend Tuesday's House session.

"As far as we know, his lawyer has not set up a time for him to surrender," Cheryl Hawkins, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, said Tuesday afternoon. "It's possible they could go and pick him up and have a regular booking."

Reached on his cell phone by The Associated Press, O'Neal said: "I just can't talk right now."

His attorney, Gloyd McCoy, also had no comment and said he did not know when O'Neal would appear in court.

Lane said the charge against O'Neal carries a five-year maximum penalty.

Conviction on a penalty charge would mean O'Neal would be automatically suspended from his legislative post.

Asked about the possibility the charge could be reduced to a misdemeanor, Lane said the case would be handled in a routine manner and the wishes of the victim would be taken into consideration.

He said O'Neal would neither get leniency nor be treated more harshly than any other similar defendant.

House Speaker Larry Adair, D-Stilwell, said he was "not happy" about the charge against O'Neal but the lawmaker had a right to due process.

Rep. Todd Hiett, House Republican leader, said he did not plan any legislative action against O'Neal.

"Once guilt or innocence is determined in the courts, it will become a legislative matter," said Hiett, R-Kellyville.

Lane said it was not his job to advise the House on how to handle its members, "but I think those of us in public office owe a duty to the public to act in a manner consistent with good citizenship, and that includes not engaging in criminal conduct.

"So I think what ultimately happens over in the House is something that hopefully the House will cleanse itself," Lane said.

According to a police affidavit filed with the charges, O'Neal sat down with a group of women around 11 p.m. on Feb. 10 and began making lewd comments.

One woman alleges O'Neal, 55, told her to change into boxer shorts and a T-shirt and join him in the hot tub, according to the affidavit filed by Oklahoma City police Det. Daniel Sheehan. The woman claimed O'Neal followed her into the motel bar and grabbed her buttocks.

The women ran to an elevator to leave, but O'Neal pried the doors open, according to the affidavit. The women then contacted motel staff for assistance.

The woman alleged O'Neal was intoxicated at the time, according to the affidavit.

O'Neal is serving his fourth term in the state House. He served two terms in the Legislature from 1995 to 1998, then was re-elected in 2000 and again in 2002.

He is married and has three children.