OCEANSIDE — The case of a middle-aged man charged with molesting a relative and a former neighbor is in the hands of the jury after attorneys finished their closing statements Sept. 8 in a Vista courtroom.
Daniel Paul O’Neal, 39, is charged with three counts of committing a lewd act upon his then 15-year-old second cousin and two counts of child molestation relating to his former neighbor, who was 12 at the time — all the counts are misdemeanors.
If convicted, O’Neal faces up to one year in jail for each count, Deputy District Attorney Will Watkins said outside the courtroom.
O’Neal’s attorney, Alejandro Morales, told jurors that his client was not the perpetrator the prosecution portrayed him to be. “Dan does not fit the description of a child molester,” Morales said.
Despite access to potential victims in the years before and after the alleged molestation, which prosecutors said took place between 2006 and 2007, no other victims or charges have ever been filed against his client, Morales told jurors.
Additionally, Morales questioned discrepancies between the neighbor girl’s testimony and her police statement. Initially, Morales said the neighbor girl told authorities she believed the first incident was an accident.
Prosecutors allege O’Neal touched his second cousin over her clothing, as well as inappropriately touched his neighbor during a “movie night” when he pulled her from a group hug at her request. The neighbor girl also said O’Neal made an inappropriate comment to her when she was riding her bike, according to court testimony.
Watkins told jurors this case wasn’t about examining O’Neal’s entire life and the chances he may or may not have had to molest other children, instead it was about these two victims.
“Sometimes thieves go into a store and don’t steal things,” Watkins said. “Isn’t one enough?”
The defense’s theory, Watkins said, is that these kids are lying; however, there was no evidence presented to prove either girl lied to the police or in their court testimony.