Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Marine gets 8 years
for attempted assault


Sunday, June 26, 2005

» A 20-year-old man sentenced to eight years in prison for attempting to kidnap and rape a jogger at Kapiolani Park was a soldier in the Army at the time of the April 2004 crime. A Page A3 article and headline Tuesday incorrectly reported that Robert Allen O'Neal was a Marine.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at corrections@starbulletin.com.

A 20-year-old Marine who told police he obsessed about raping a woman and tried to carry it out to avoid being deployed to Iraq was sentenced yesterday to eight years in prison.


Robert Allen O'Neal: The 20-year-old says he was despondent over possible deployment

Robert Allen O'Neal of Virginia was facing 20 years in prison after pleading guilty in March to kidnapping and attempted first-degree sexual assault. He was arrested April 6, 2004, after he tried to kidnap and sexually assault a female jogger at knifepoint at Kapiolani Park.

Despite the state's objections, Circuit Judge Richard Pollack granted the defense's request for a reduced term under the youth offender sentencing law, noting that it should not be construed as minimizing the serious nature of O'Neal's conduct.

Pollack said O'Neal's history of mental illness, being subjected to sexual abuse as a youngster and the circumstances leading up to the attack were "persuasive."

Coupled with his pending deployment to Iraq, his background including the mental illness and sex abuse resulted in "egregious conduct," Pollack said.

Unlike other defendants charged with sexual offenses, however, "this defendant actually appreciates and recognizes the effect his conduct has on the victim," Pollack said. O'Neal said he was glad he was arrested because he has since drawn close to God.

He said there was no excuse for what he did.

Deputy public defender Debra Loy said O'Neal obsessed about his fantasy and brought "equipment" with him that night to carry it out. But he does not minimize what he did to the woman, is very remorseful and is haunted by what he could have done to her, she said.

O'Neal had joined the military to make a man out of himself after being sexually abused as a youth and living in and out of broken homes, she said. At the time of the attack, his wife was four months pregnant, he was facing deployment and he was scared he was not going to make it back or ever see his unborn daughter, Loy said.

"This poor woman was the victim of his problem, and she doesn't deserve that," Loy said.

Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter said later that he was disappointed in the sentence, noting that it was less than half of the maximum 20-year term set by the Legislature. "Reducing it by more than 50 percent minimizes the seriousness of what he did," he said.

O'Neal's conduct is a reflection of a past mental health history that shows when he is under a tremendous amount of pressure or stress, he acts out in an aggressive way, Van Marter said.

O'Neal, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, had been thinking about raping someone for some time and even told military doctors earlier that day that he did not want to be deployed for fear of dying and that he was thinking of raping someone or killing himself to avoid going, Van Marter said.

That night, he brought a knife, condom and lubricant, and went out to Kapiolani Park and began stalking the victim, Van Marter said. He hid behind a tree, and as she passed he grabbed her from behind and threatened to kill her if she screamed. He then began dragging her to a dark area of the park with the intention of raping her, he said.

The woman fought back, screamed and bit his hand. A police officer preparing for patrol nearby on his all-terrain vehicle overheard her screams and captured O'Neal a short time later.

The woman is still traumatized from the attack and was awarded compensation by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Commission for pain and suffering and counseling she received, Van Marter said. O'Neal was ordered to pay restitution of $800 to help pay for the woman's counseling.

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