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Tuesday, May 30, 2023
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Editors’ note: This story contains graphic descriptions of sexual assault. 

A 20-year-old UF junior pled not guilty to a charge of sexual battery after being accused of raping a woman twice the morning of Sept. 27. 

O’Connell was arrested by Gainesville Police Oct. 8 and released from the Alachua County Jail the following day, according to court records. His parents paid for his $50,000 bond, which was signed and sealed Oct. 9.

As of Tuesday, O’Connell has waived all his appearances in court hearings, requested a jury trial and waived a speedy trial, according to court records. Because he pled not guilty, he won’t need to appear in court. 

Jason O’Connell’s trial has not been set, but after he substituted his lawyer, the third attorney, Huntley Johnson, filed a motion to travel. O’Connell can now stay with his mother in Mooresville, North Carolina until the case is resolved, according to court records. The court approved the motion Oct. 15.

O’Connell hasn’t responded to The Alligator's attempts for comment as of Thursday.

He is a 2019-2020 Gators Ice Hockey club member, according to this year’s roster

The woman involved is not a UF student, said UF spokesperson Steve Orlando.

O’Connell is an aerospace engineering student at the university, Orlando said, adding that he couldn’t provide more information. 

UF typically sends out emails about crimes occurring on-campus under the Clery Act, a federal law requiring colleges to send out this information, but didn’t for this incident.

Orlando said this is because it didn’t happen on the UF campus or any other UF properties that fall under UF’s Clery Act jurisdiction, Orlando said.

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“The incident was relayed to us from GPD when the suspect was identified/arrested and a trespass was immediately initiated,” Orlando wrote in a text message. 

UF declined to comment on O'Connell's case as of Wednesday evening.

In 2019, a UF sexual assault and misconduct survey found that at least 45% of students experienced one or more types of harassment. At UF, 30.1% of undergraduate women, about 7.7% of undergraduate men and about 14.8% of transgender, nonbinary or genderqueer undergraduate and graduate students reported non-consensual sexual contact, either by force or the inability to consent.

In 2010, 2011 and 2012, UF led the state’s private and public institutions for total reported cases of sexual assault. 

On the night of Sept. 26, the woman and her two UF student roommates, who live above O’Connell at the Social 28 Apartment complex, located at 311 SW 13th St., went to O’Connell’s apartment to play drinking games, according to a GPD report. One of the woman’s roommates told officers the woman was “a step below blackout drunk” when she sat next to O’Connell on the couch, and couldn’t stand on her own, at one point.

The woman told police O’Connell asked her to remove her shirt, then drank alcohol off her body, kissed and filmed her. She told police while this was happening, she zoned in and out of consciousness.

Half an hour later, her roommates told police they noticed she disappeared from the living room, according to the reports. The woman doesn’t recall walking to O’Connell’s bedroom, which also stated that she didn’t, and couldn’t, consent to having sex.

The woman told police that she asked O’Connell to stop, but he continued a second time, according to the report. She told police that she noticed blood stains on the mattress and  described having a red mark on her neck and a sore throat. 

Three witnesses, including the woman’s two roommates and O’Connell’s roommate, told police they saw the woman and O’Connell walk out of his room after the incident, according to the report. O’Connell’s roomate told police O’Connell hinted to him that he had sex with the woman in his room. 

The roommate, a fellow club hockey teammate, told The Alligator he wouldn’t comment on the incident. The woman’s roommates didn’t respond to The Alligator for comment as of Wednesday. 

O’Connell is now represented by a different lawyer, according to court records. His first lawyer, William Richard Ezzell, was accused of filming a woman undressing in a tanning salon.

Ezzell, faced allegations of voyeurism, in 2014 after a 51-year-old woman accused him of videotaping her while she took off her clothes at TanUSA. Ezzell resigned from his position as an assistant state attorney and The Florida Supreme Court suspended him from practicing law and placed him on two years of probation. 

Ezzell declined to comment about his time representing O'Connell.

By Saturday, O’Connell was represented by Richard Buzan, an attorney with Musca Law, a criminal justice law practice in Gainesville, according to an employee at Musca Law who didn’t want to be named. Attorneys at the law firm began working on his case over the weekend, but the law firm said it no longer represented him as of Monday.

O’Connell is now represented by Huntley Johnson, an attorney at Johnson & Osteryoung, a Gainesville law practice, as of Tuesday. Johnson refiled O’Connell’s waiver of appearance at all court hearings and intent to participate in discovery, which is a pre-trial process involving the gathering of evidence. Johnson also filed a waiver of speedy trial Tuesday. 

This isn’t the first time a UF student was involved in a similar case. 

Ian Milaski, a former UF resident assistant, was arrested August 2019 on charges of sexual battery, battery and false imprisonment after he was accused of sexually assaulting a female student. 

In September, Milaski was released from the Alachua County Jail. The judge said he was “a high-achieving” student leader and reduced his $125,000 bond. Milaski’s trial was postponed in June. His next court appearance will be Nov. 16 via Zoom. 

O’Connell’s trial date is still unknown but will likely occur through Zoom, according to an employee at the trial court administrator’s office who didn’t want to be named.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct numbers from the UF sexual assault and misconduct survey. A previous version reported otherwise.

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Asta Hemenway

Asta Hemenway is a third-year senior majoring in Journalism. Born in Tallahassee, she grew up Senegalese American. When she’s not writing or doing school, she loves watching Netflix and Tiktok in her spare time. 

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