A new witness says a former Westport foster father found guilty of historical sexual assaults on two boys did not commit the offences.
The man, who also lived at Timothy Patrick O’Neill’s Westport foster home at the time of the alleged incidents, told a Brockville court Tuesday the accusations against O’Neill are false. The new witness’s identity is protected by a publication ban.
The testimony happened during a defence application to reopen the trial of O’Neill, whose sentencing has been postponed while Superior Court Justice John Johnston hears that application.
In April, Johnston found O’Neill guilty of seven sex-related offences – two counts of sexual assault, two counts of sexual exploitation, one count of sexual interference and two counts of sexual touching. The alleged victims were under age 14 at the time.
The court found O’Neill, 55, who now lives in Perth, committed the offences almost two decades ago when he was a foster dad in Westport.
In finding O’Neill guilty, Johnston dismissed allegations made by a third boy because he found his testimony to be not credible. The boy had made allegations against O’Neill to the OPP and Children’s Aid Society about 20 years ago but the OPP didn’t believe the boy back then, and the CAS allowed O’Neill to continue fostering kids.
O’Neill was convicted of five of the charges in connection with one boy who testified he was fostered by O’Neill for six months and spent all but two nights of that time in O’Neil’s bedroom where the pair engaged in oral sex and masturbation.
The second victim testified that he was visiting a friend overnight at the Westport residence when he was fondled by O’Neill. Two of the convictions relate to that alleged encounter.
O’Neill maintains his innocence, claiming that the alleged victims made up the stories.
In May, defence lawyer Miriam Martin filed a last-minute application to reopen the case, saying that the defence team had located an important witness who wasn’t available to testify at O’Neill’s trial.
Johnston ruled at the time that the defence should be allowed to apply to have the trial reopened.
Due to time constraints, Tuesday’s proceedings were limited to Martin’s defence questioning.
The witness said he was shocked by allegations against O’Neill when interviewed by the Ontario Provincial Police, adding officers brought up “situations that were absurd.”
In the case of one allegation, the former foster home resident said: “It’s absurd that anything could have possibly happened.”
“That’s a crazy accusation,” he added.
The man said he has been in regular contact with O’Neill since his three to four adolescent years at the foster home, and considers O’Neill a father figure in contrast to his own troubled family history.
He told the court he is upset at a non-communication order that bars him from speaking to O’Neill, all over “accusations that are false.”
Under defence questioning, the man repeatedly denied seeing anything of a sexual nature involving O’Neill during his time at the foster home.
“That’s not right,” he later said. “Tim’s family. These accusations are bulls**t.”
The hearing over the application resumes Aug. 20, when Crown prosecutor Keith Schultz is expected to cross-examine the new witness.