Fast Times at Marina Bay?
Sexual assault cases often come down to one person’s word against another’s, the classic he said, she said. In such cases, guilt or innocence often turns on credibility. “This is not the first case that will go to trial in which one side accuses the other of a shakedown,” says David Frank, a former Suffolk County assistant DA. “Clearly the defendant in this case has a lot of money and so has grounds to make that sort of an argument, but if the defense is going to suggest that this is nothing more than an extortion attempt, they’re certainly going to have to have the evidence to back that up.” If the girl’s motive in coming forward was money, Frank says, that could raise questions about her credibility. But if the prosecution can show beyond reasonable doubt that statutory rape occurred, it may not matter. “At the end of the day,” he says, “the law does not allow an adult to have sex with a minor under any circumstance.”
IN THE DAYS AFTER the shooting, as he lay in critical condition at Boston Medical Center, news reports painted Milton firefighter Joseph Fasano as a kind of hero. He was a veteran, a public servant, and the victim of a senseless crime.
But then a more complicated picture began to emerge as subsequent stories detailed an alcohol-fueled domestic violence dispute in his past, a baby daughter who’d died accidentally, and a case of post-traumatic stress disorder for which he’d taken medication off and on for years. In 2007, it turned out, police had been called to the Weymouth apartment he shared with an ex. According to the official police report, they found a drunken Fasano “screaming and yelling at the top of his lungs,” with the apartment in shambles: shattered glass, an upended coffee table, parts of the ceiling on the floor. It also came out that while at Boston Medical Center, Fasano admitted that, on the night of the shooting, he’d snorted coke earlier that evening.
Robert O’Connell, meanwhile, showed up in court sporting a baby-blue sweater, khaki pants, and a deer-in-headlights look. He was eventually indicted for assault with intent to murder and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. After pleading innocent to all charges, he was released on $500,000 bail, but was forced to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and to restrict his travel to his lawyer’s office and his mother’s house. His case is likely to go to trial in the spring. If convicted on all charges, he could face 35 years in prison.
In court, Robert seemed as genuinely mild-mannered as his attorneys had set out to portray him to be. He’d led a moderately ordinary, if privileged, 40 years, graduating from Stonehill College with an economics degree and working at State Street Corporation before joining the family business. Aside from a few speeding tickets in the ’90s, his record was squeaky clean. In 2006, he’d suffered a brain aneurysm that forced him to take a smaller role in O’Connell Management. This was no hard-bodied alpha male. That night in December, he’d been coming home from dinner with friends; he was, in general, described as a homebody who not long ago had lived with his mother. “He’s frail,” Peter, his father, told a judge at one point. “You wouldn’t classify him as a tough guy.”
Robert’s attorneys have been busy characterizing Fasano as a short-tempered monster with considerable mental health issues exacerbated by consistent drug use. “Robert acted legally in self-defense when he was confronted on the street that night,” says his high-powered Quincy lawyer, William Sullivan, who is also representing Nathaniel Fujita, the Wayland teen accused of murdering his former high school girlfriend this summer. In June, Sullivan filed a motion to subpoena phone records from the night of the incident, hoping to prove that Fasano bought, or sought to buy, drugs at least once in the hours before the shooting. At 3:23 p.m. that day, according to an affidavit Sullivan filed in court, Fasano texted a pal named “Jimmy,” asking if he had any “boxos,” a street name for Suboxone, a prescription drug that can produce a heroinlike high. Texts exchanged later that evening between Fasano and a guy named “Tweeze” suggest that Fasano may have scored drugs as late as 11:39 p.m., approximately 10 minutes before he was shot — though Fasano’s hospital records show he admitted only to using alcohol and cocaine the night of the incident.