UI student with disability, caretaker accused of sexual assault

URBANA — A University of Illinois student with a disability and his hired caretaker have both been criminally charged with the sexual assault of another UI student with a disability.

Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz said Brian O'Donnell, 21, a resident of Nugent Hall at 207 E. Gregory Drive, C, was charged Tuesday with aggravated criminal sexual assault for an encounter that allegedly happened with a fellow student in O'Donnell's room early Friday morning.

Rietz said O'Donnell's hired caretaker, Thomas Roman Jr., 21, who listed an address in the 0-100 block of East John Street, Champaign, was also charged with the crime for allegedly assisting O'Donnell in carrying it out.

Rietz said the assault allegedly occurred about 2 a.m. Friday in O'Donnell's room after he, Roman and the woman, age 20, had been out drinking at a campus bar.

Roman, who is able-bodied, allegedly put the woman on top of O'Donnell in his bed and helped them consummate the sex act in spite of her protests, Rietz said. Both the woman, who is a freshman, and O'Donnell, a UI senior, have to use wheelchairs to get around, Rietz said.

The woman reported the incident to a friend the next day, who then shared the information with a resident director at Nugent Hall. University of Illinois police were contacted Sunday, Rietz said.

Roman was arrested Sunday and gave police a statement. Rietz said Roman said he did not have sex with the woman but admitted that he assisted O'Donnell in allegedly doing so.

Rietz said O'Donnell hired Roman as his caretaker. The UI has nothing to do with that process, she said.

On Tuesday, Rietz obtained a warrant for O'Donnell's arrest. Police were reluctant to arrest him earlier because of concerns at the jail over being able to properly care for him, Rietz said. 

O'Donnell appeared in court Wednesday with his attorney, Tom Bruno of Urbana. Judge Richard Klaus lowered his bond to $100,000 and agreed that he could be released, after posting $10,000 cash, if he agrees to wear an electronic home detention bracelet. Klaus ordered him to be fitted by Friday.

Klaus ordered that O'Donnell have no contact with the alleged victim and told him to be back in court Oct. 23. 

Roman appeared in court Tuesday and was also ordered to have no contact with the alleged victim and told to be back in court Sept. 18 with an attorney.

UI police Capt. Roy Acree said police are continuing to investigate the role that Roman played in the assault.

Aggravated criminal sexual assault is a Class X felony carrying potential penalties of between six and 30 years in prison upon conviction.

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