A former music teacher at Valley High School in New Kensington was ordered to serve nine months on house arrest and five years on probation for sending sexually-themed text messages to two students.
Sean Timothy O’Neil, 35, of North Apollo, pleaded guilty in two related cases on Thursday in which police said that in 2020 he sent inappropriate text messages, some sexual, to the teen-aged girls including a request that one send him a picture wearing only underwear. Other messages referred to bondage and violent sex games, according to police.
O’Neil pleaded guilty to one felony charge for the criminal use of a communications device along with misdemeanor counts of corruption of minors and harassment. Prosecutors dismissed felony charges of dissemination of explicit sexual materials to a minor and unlawful contact with a minor.
“This case is striking to the court and I believe these acts deserve incarceration but the commonwealth and defense are familiar with these cases. The commonwealth indicated there are good reasons to offer punishment that falls short of incarceration,” said Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Mears.
Neither of O’Neil’s accusers were in court on Thursday but both agreed with the plea bargain, according to Assistant District Attorney Anthony Iannamorelli.
Iannamorelli said the accusers’ desire for closure and an assurance that O’Neil will have criminal convictions on his record prompted the plea deal.
“Given the position he had as a teacher, I believe it is critical to guarantee convictions of serious charges. The world is now on notice of his convictions and ensures punishment and supervision of a specialized manner for five years,” Iannamorelli said.
Defense attorney Ken Noga said O’Neil was terminated from his teaching job.
In addition to the probation and house arrest terms, the judge barred O’Neil from having any unsupervised contact with juveniles, ordered him to undergo a “psycho-sexual” evaluation and follow any recommended treatment.
“If you violate terms of probation, I will not hesitate to incarcerate you for a long period of time. I have concerns that someone with your education level can’t control himself around young girls,” Mears said.