It didn’t take jurors long to decide that counselor Janice White isn’t the sexual predator one of her patients wanted them to believe.
The panel deliberated less than 90 minutes Thursday before rejecting a claim by Kevin O’Neil that White, 54, made sexual advances toward him during their two years of counseling sessions.
O’Neil, 51, said he and White had sex twice at his north Spokane home when he broke three years of sobriety and went on a weeklong drinking binge. In the months leading up to that, O’Neil said White took him out to lunch, sent him a plant and “came on to me” repeatedly.
His attorney, Dana Kelley, asked the jury to award O’Neil at least $283,000 for lost wages, emotional trauma and the future therapy he would need to recover.
Jurors, however, unanimously decided that White did nothing wrong.
They were suspicious of O’Neil’s motives, one panel member said, especially when they learned he made a similar claim against a former college counselor.
“He lost credibility with us,” said the juror, who didn’t want his name used. “We all pretty much thought he has problems.”
During the trial, O’Neil said he had sexual contact with a career counselor at the University of Montana years ago, but broke off his meetings with her immediately afterward.
White’s attorneys portrayed O’Neil as a vindictive man who made up the charges to get money. Once, when his wife was fired from her job, O’Neil called her boss’ husband and said he’d been having sex with the man’s wife.
“He lied for revenge,” said Dan Huntington, one of White’s attorneys. “That’s what this whole case is based on - exaggeration and embellishment.”
When the verdict was read, O’Neil hurried from the courtroom while White and her physician-husband of 33 years, Travis White, hugged each other.
White’s attorney Dan Keefe said he knew jurors would not buy O’Neil’s story.
“It’s a shame we had to go through this,” Keefe said. “But in the end, the system worked.”