Defendant acknowledged that he wasn’t a typical first-time offender
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
A high-profile, drunken-driving defendant was sentenced yesterday to 60 days in prison.
Chester County Court Judge William P. Mahon imposed the jail term on Sean O. O’Neill, a 23-year-old Delaware County resident who
shot and killed a 17-year-old classmate in 2006, a death that initiated a series of crime-based headlines that involved him as well as his family.
Although the judge stopped short of the maximum three- to six-month penalty sought by Assistant District Attorney Marilyn M. Seide, he far exceeded the maximum-minimum term of 72 hours initially requested by defense attorney Vincent P. DiFabio.
DiFabio said his client recognized that he deserved more punishment than a typical first-time, drunken-driver. As a result, DiFabio told the judge that he was seeking a slightly deferred 37-day sentence, which would enable O’Neill to keep a doctor’s appointment for a leg injury and also begin classes at Temple University, where he was recently accepted.
After the proceeding, both sides expressed satisfaction with the judge’s ruling, which included a stern lecture for O’Neill before he was taken into custody.
“The defendant’s sentence was 20 times what any first-offense DUI offender would receive,” Seide said. “Sean O’Neill earned his sentence.”
DiFabio said his goal was to help O’Neill get his life on a positive track, which is why he wanted him to be able to start college on time. One of the judge’s provisions, which the prosecution had opposed, gave O’Neill the chance to accrue “good time” in prison, which will enable him to reduce the sentence slightly if he behaves, DiFabio said.
“I’m not sure he’ll get out in time to begin classes, but it will be close,” DiFabio said.
The O’Neill family’s now-legendary brushes with the law began on Sept. 1, 2006, when O’Neill fatally shot Scott Sheridan, his friend and Cardinal O’Hara classmate, at an unchaperoned drinking party at the O’Neills’ former home in Willistown Township home. O’Neill completed two residential juvenile treatment programs before being released in 2009.
The investigation into Sheridan’s death prompted a search of the O’Neills’ residence that led to a federal firearms conviction for O’Neill’s father, Sean O. O’Neill Sr., an undocumented immigrant and former Delaware County pub owner. He was deported to Ireland last year after serving an 18-month jail sentence.
Another of the family’s three children, Roisin O’Neill, 26, is serving a 5-to-10-year prison term for a Sept. 19, 2008, fatality. She admitted driving drunk in the wrong direction on the Blue Route in Plymouth Township, causing a crash that killed Patricia Murphy Waggoner, 63, a grandmother from Brimfield, Mass. The O’Neills’ youngest child has been cited for underage drinking.
In May, O’Neill Jr. entered a guilty plea before Mahon, admitting that he drove drunk, careened off Westtown Road in his Cadillac Esplanade, traversed a lawn, and crashed into a garage on Thanksgiving morning.
Susan Sheridan, Scott Sheridan’s mother, attended the sentencing. She said that although she was pleased the judge held O’Neill accountable, the justice system continues to exacerbate her pain. “He gets 60 days for DUI and nothing for killing my son,” she said.