December 21, 2014

Elyria
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James Osborne pleads insanity in ABC Kidz case

James Osborne

James Osborne

Heather Koon

Heather Koon

ELYRIA — James Osborne on Friday pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges he convinced his fiance, Heather Koon, to molest children at day care centers where she worked.

“He has been hearing voices for some time,” Osborne’s attorney, Mike Duff, said, although he declined to discuss what those voices told his client.

Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said he was unaware of the insanity plea and an accompanying request to determine whether Osborne is competent to assist in his own defense. But Will said he’s seen nothing to indicate that Osborne is insane.

“I don’t have any information on that,” Will said.

Prosecutors have said that Osborne, a convicted sex offender, persuaded Koon to rape four children at ABC Kidz Child Care in Elyria in March and April of last year. She also allegedly took obscene photos of children at both ABC Kidz and the Country Day School in Amherst, where she worked after leaving ABC Kidz.

Lorain County sheriff’s deputies learned of the sexual abuse after arresting Osborne Sept. 26 at Koon’s Elyria home. He is accused of living with Koon rather than at the Oberlin address he had registered with the county, an allegation Duff has denied.

Deputies found sexually explicit photos on Osborne’s iPhone, although Duff has said the pictures were downloaded from the Internet. The ensuing investigation led to authorities finding images on the phone and a laptop computer that implicated Koon in the rapes.

Osborne’s insanity plea came the same day that county Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi granted a request from prosecutors to try Koon and Osborne together.

Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo wrote in his request to join the cases that the allegations were “inextricably intertwined.”

“While Defendant Koon was physically committing the offenses, the evidence will show that Defendant Osborne was soliciting, encouraging and conspiring to have her commit the acts and text both pictures and films of the crimes,” Cillo wrote.

Duff said he objected to trying Koon and Osborne together because he suspects Koon’s lawyer, Dan Wightman, intends to argue that his client forced her into the crimes.

In court documents filed last month, Duff wrote that text messages between Koon and Osborne indicate “their mutual enjoyment of the sexual assaults.”

Koon also offered to take the “fall” for the sexual abuse during an Oct. 1 phone call between herself and Osborne, Duff wrote.

“It’s my computer, so it’s not your fault,” the documents quote Koon telling Osborne. “I’m gonna take the blame. Videos are enough that I did (expletive). They are gonna charge me with rape anyways.”

Duff also wrote that Koon implicated Osborne during a conversation with a defense expert after she was jailed.

“Ms. Koon stated to her that Defendant Osborne gave Ms. Koon the choice of either continuing the swinging lifestyle or doing kiddy porn,” Duff wrote.

Wightman, who didn’t oppose trying Koon and Osborne together, said whether Koon was compelled to carry out the crimes she’s accused of committing will be a central part of her defense.

“Suffice to say that if this case goes to trial, there’s going to be a lot of discussion of the relationship of Heather and Osborne,” he said.

Wightman declined to get into details, but suggested that Koon herself may have been victimized by Osborne and the question is “whether she acted voluntarily or whether was under compulsion.”

Duff said if they are tried together, it would be difficult for his client to refute those allegations unless Koon testifies.

“If she claims she’s an involuntary participant and she doesn’t take the stand, how do you fight that?” Duff said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.