Rape trial begins as accuser testifies about encounter

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HANCOCK COUNTY — The sexual encounter between the two adults was consensual, the defense attorney said. That was not the case, the prosecutors insisted.

It was rape, they said.

Testimony got fully under way Wednesday in the trial of a southern Indiana man who has been accused of multiple felonies after an incident in December 2017 in Greenfield involving a woman with whom he once had a relationship.

Multiple witnesses took the stand, including the accuser, in the trial of Joseph R. O’Neil, 29, of Mount Vernon in Posey County.

The woman originally told police O’Neil forced himself on her in the middle of the night at her home while he was visiting. She told the jury of nine men and three women that she did not want to have sex with O’Neil that night and that he raped her. The woman said she was asleep in a bed in a guest bedroom of her home when O’Neil, who was in the same bed, woke her up.

The woman said that as soon as O’Neil left her house, around 10:30 a.m. the next day, Dec. 27, 2017, she immediately called police and reported the crime. O’Neil’s attorney, Brian Cook, however, noted on cross examination that the woman had plenty of time to summon police but didn’t after O’Neil went back to sleep after the sexual encounter.

Cook also brought up a mutual sexual encounter the two had just a few weeks prior to the alleged rape.

The woman admitted she and O’Neil had had sex on Thanksgiving. But on the night of the December encounter, she told the jury, she had a new boyfriend and wasn’t interested in having sex with O’Neil.

The trial became contentious when Cook and deputy prosecutors Catherine Wilson and Kevin Kelly disagreed on entering into evidence sexually explicit photos the victim had sent to O’Neil.

Judge Scott Sirk, who is hearing the case in Hancock County Circuit Court, allowed the jury to hear testimony on the photos, which the woman had sent to O’Neil within a year of the alleged attack.

During the cross examination, the woman said she had given the photos to O’Neil, but only because he insisted she do so as a trade-off for something she sought from him.

On the first day of the trial, Kelly told the jury the evidence was clear.

“She repeatedly told him to stop,” Kelly said. “When she was alone and free from the threat, she immediately called the police.”

Cook told the jury during opening arguments that the couple’s sexual encounter was consensual.

O’Neil is accused of two Level 3 felony charges of rape and one Level 6 felony count of sexual battery. The trial is expected to wrap up and be presented to the jury sometime today (Dec. 19).