Sixth District Judge Wes Tidwell has denied convicted child molester Lonnie O’Neal, 40, of Sumner, a new trial during a hearing Monday afternoon at the Lamar County Courthouse.

In a motion filed Sept. 6, O’Neal claimed an improper conversation occurred between O’Neal’s former boss and two potential jurors on the day of jury selection for his trial, according to court records.

One of those potential jurors served as jury foreman at the trial, and took the witness stand Monday to answer questions posed by defense attorney Mike Mosher and Lamar County assistant district attorney Kelsey Doty.

“That juror did not have the same recollection of this alleged conversation, or that any improper communication occurred,” Doty said Monday afternoon.

On Aug. 28, a jury convicted O’Neal and

recommended a 50-year sentence on three counts of sexual child abuse including a first degree charge of continuous sexual abuse of a child under the age of 14 and two counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact.

During the trial, the now 16-year-old victim testified her stepfather continually abused her from the time she was about 8 or 9 years old until about age 14.

Tidwell sentenced O’Neal to 40 years on the first degree charge and ordered the two second degree sentences of five years each to be served concurrently after O’Neal completes the first sentence. He will serve every day of the 40-year sentence and half of each five-year sentence before he is eligible for parole.

After Monday’s ruling, Tidwell appointed Texarkana attorney Troy Hornsby to represent O’Neal on appeal before the Sixth District Court of Appeals.

Mary Madewell is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6976 or at mary.madewell@theparisnews.com.

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