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Supreme Court Justice downplays sexual assault among politicians

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Holly Shively Headshot

Not only have legislators started causing major mistrust among constituents through sexual assault allegations, but now even our Ohio Supreme Court is showing divide, as justices criticized the comments made by one of their own Friday.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill took to Facebook to disclose to the public that in “the last fifty years, I was sexually intimate with approximately 50 very attractive females. It ranged from a gorgeous blonde who was my first true love, and we made passionate love in the hayloft of her parents’ barn, and ended with a drop-dead gorgeous redhead from Cleveland.”

O’Neill made the post at 11:33 a.m. Friday and edited it at 12:36 a.m., just after he was interviewed by the Columbus Dispatch, in which he deleted some of the identifying information about the women.

Having consensual sex with 50 women is one thing, but the Democratic candidate for governor didn’t just make that point in his post. He said he wanted to save his opponents digging time on his past, expecting he was the media’s next target as a candidate.

 “Now that the dogs of war are calling for the head of Sen. Al Franken, I believe it is time to speak up on behalf of all heterosexual males,” O’Neill’s Facebook post read.

Franken was accused by a Los Angeles radio host for forcibly kissing and groping her while on a 2006 USO trip to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. There’s even photo evidence of him grabbing the woman’s breasts while she was asleep. That’s not the same as having consensual sex.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, O’Neill also criticized the Washington Post’s coverage of allegations that Roy Moore pursued and sexually assaulted teenagers 40 years ago.

“He’s in the middle of a Senate campaign,” O’Neill said.

Well, Justice O’Neill, I’m sorry that the #MeToo campaign started while Moore was in the middle of a political campaign. Clearly we should wait until after he’s elected to reveal his history of assaulting teenage girls as young as 14 years old, who by the way, absolutely cannot consent by law in the state of Ohio. But you know that because you’re a highly-esteemed justice, don’t you?

O’Neill said a focus on politicians’ past sexual indiscretions takes away from bigger issues, as if men in authority groping teenagers and women in their sleep isn’t a larger issue on its own. Do you as a judge, not believe in character? That the characters of these men aid in their decision-making about policies that affect constituents? That we shouldn’t elect men, or women alike, with poor character because they show they’ll make poor decisions?

Eventually, O’Neill deleted his post and took to Facebook once again to tell people to “lighten up.”  In an interview with the Associated Press, he said he didn’t regret what he said.

Saturday, O’Neill said in an interview, “sometimes when you’re right, you do have to stand alone. And I am right here.” He posted Sunday morning saying he was wrong and would go to church to get right with God after getting right with his friends and family.

“I am sorry. I have damaged the national debate on the very real subject of sexual harassment, abuse and unfortunately, rape. It is not a laughing matter,” he wrote before going off to the St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Chagrin Falls, where he teaches Sunday school.

This apology just doesn’t cut it for me. What I sense is a man trying to save his political career, and who hasn’t likely changed his mind at all.

I say to heck with this idea that the media shouldn’t be investigating someone accused of sexual assault of any kind just because they’re in the middle of a campaign. Our justice system should be exploring the allegations just as much as our journalists. Where the government fails, that’s where journalism must fill in the gaps.

Remember that we are your watchdog, Mr. O’Neill, and oh, how we are watching you now.

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