DEDHAM — Prominent Quincy developer William O’Connell was sentenced to three years of probation Friday after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor drug possession, but statutory rape charges against him were dropped after the teenage girl involved died.
In 2011, the girl accused the now 73-year-old O’Connell of carrying on a sexual relationship with her when she was 14 and 15 years old. He also allegedly gave the girl cocaine — the basis of a drug trafficking charge against him.
But special prosecutor Andrew DiCarlo Berman said the girl died in a car accident on Dec. 18 , and without her testimony the Commonwealth could not move forward on most of the 12 charges against O’Connell.
“Without that testimony there was no, or at least insufficient, evidence to proceed on those charges,” Berman, a Boston lawyer, said in a phone interview after the sentencing hearing in Norfolk Superior Court.
Berman was appointed to the case by Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey, a former state senator who had worked with O’Connell in the past and who removed himself from the proceedings to preserve impartiality.
O’Connell had been free on $150,000 bail since his arraignment in September 2011. He is well-known for his family’s construction work in Quincy on the Marina Bay condominium and retail development, as well as the Granite Links Golf Club at Quarry Hills. He did not speak to reporters as he left the courthouse on Friday.
Stephen R. Delinsky, O’Connell’s lawyer, said his client denies the sexual assault charges and that he had planned to argue that the girl had a financial motive for accusing O’Connell of rape.
“He was looking forward to going to trial because we were confident that he would have been found not guilty,” Delinsky said.
He said O’Connell’s relationship with the teen was innocent and that “he knew her casually.”
Another defendant, Phyllis Capuano, also faced charges in the case that were dropped on Friday. Berman said Capuano introduced the teenage girl to O’Connell, and also was accused of sexually assaulting her.
The Commonwealth similarly could not continue the case against Capuano without the girl’s testimony.
O’Connell, standing with his palms on a rail in front of the judge’s bench, pleaded guilty on Friday to possession of cocaine. The offense carries a maximum penalty of one year in a house of correction and a $1,000 fine.
Berman said during the hearing that a bag containing about 18 grams of cocaine was found in a safe in O’Connell’s Quincy condo in March 2011 when officers executed a search warrant there.
Judge Kenneth J. Fishman sentenced O’Connell to three years’ probation. As part of his sentence, he will be subject to random drug testing and must notify the Probation Department when he plans to travel in the United States for business. O’Connell was also ordered to pay the maximum $1,000 fine.
Speaking before the judge at sentencing, Delinsky said his client had no prior record and has been gainfully employed his entire life.
“He has led an otherwise exemplary life,” Delinsky said.
Berman and Delinsky jointly recommended O’Connell’s sentence. Though he said the punishment fit the misdemeanor charge, Berman called the outcome of the case disappointing.
“In the overall context of the case, it’s extremely frustrating,” Berman said. “And it’s disappointing to see a defendant who at one time was facing a long term in jail walk out with probation.”