Dakota County will drop its accusations against former Burnsville Swim Club Coach Alfred John “Rocky” O’Neill of sexual misconduct after his trial ended with a hung jury for the second time this year, the county attorney announced Tuesday.

O’Neill, 63, of Savage had faced five charges of felony third-degree criminal sexual conduct after a former club swimmer reported O’Neill coerced her into a sexual relationship when she was a teen while he was her coach and in his early 30s.

O’Neill pleaded not guilty and went to trial for a second time this month. County Attorney James Backstrom in a news release said he wouldn’t try a third time with the evidence available.

“It is rare that a jury is unable to reach a verdict in a criminal case, but it does occasionally occur,” Backstrom said in a written statement.

“I want to commend the woman for her courage in talking about these extremely difficult circumstances after so many years and assisting us in two separate criminal trials, which is never easy in cases of this nature.”

The case began more than a year ago after the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a nonprofit that aims to stop athlete abuse, received an anonymous report about O’Neill, Backstrom said previously.

The victim, now a physician, testified in the first trial that her relationship with O’Neill seemed positive until she was 17, when he kissed her and began touching her and initiating oral sex, according to a court transcript. Southwest News Media generally doesn’t publicize the names of sexual assault victims.

O’Neill before the first trial in April told investigators nothing happened with the swimmer until she was 18.

O’Neill’s attorney, Ryan Pacyga, on Tuesday said he and his client were glad most of the jury saw the difference between an inappropriate or immoral relationship and a criminal one.

Like his predecessor in the first trial, Pacyga argued O’Neill didn’t have authority as coach over the teen when their relationship became sexual. The woman said O’Neill’s misconduct happened during school, outside of the club season.

“Obviously we’re pleased with the dismissal,” Pacyga said.

Community editor

Dan Holtmeyer is the community editor for the Prior Lake and Savage papers. He grew up in Nebraska and worked as a journalist in Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas before coming to Minnesota in 2018.


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