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An Ohio University Police car parked outside of Scott Quadrangle. (FILE)

Lawsuit alleges Ohio University turned a blind eye to cop's sexual abuse of a minor

A woman who filed an Ohio Court of Claims case alleging that an Ohio University Police Department officer sexually abused her when she was a minor has now filed a federal case that includes new details of the accusations of misconduct. 

The former Federal Hocking Local School District student is suing the university in the Southern District of Ohio for being “deliberately indifferent” in its response to reports about the sexual abuse of minors by Robert Andrew Parsons, a former Ohio University Police Department officer.

The woman who filed the lawsuit is accusing Parsons of stalking and raping her in locked university buildings and in his police cruiser while in uniform and “on the clock,” according to the complaint. 

The suit alleges that the university allowed Parsons to continue working with underage high school students even after it was aware of “inappropriate gender based misconduct involving a minor” dating back to at least 2001, when the Athens County Department of Children’s Services investigated him for sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Included in the lawsuit is a note that Parsons gave to an underage high school woman calling her a “hottie” and telling her that she had to figure out what car to leave her name on. The note said it “shouldn’t be hard” to find ⁠— a reference to his police cruiser. 

In 2005, Parsons began an “illegal and abusive sexual relationship” with the woman and at least two other minors, according to the lawsuit. OUPD even sent Parsons to attend a "career day" at the woman’s high school, where he made plans with the woman to have sex later that evening, according to the lawsuit. OU fired Parsons in February 2006, almost three months after it received notice of his sexual abuse of the woman. 

The Athens County Department of Children’s Services warned the university in 2005 that Parsons’ was “a danger to minors” after a sexual abuse investigator interviewed both the woman and Parsons.

The lawsuit introduces a page from an OUPD internal investigation into the abuse by Parsons as evidence, in which a university official found that the 2001 allegations against Parsons were extremely similar to the allegations of his abuse of the woman between 2005 and 2006.

It also introduces a 2006 request for a pre-disciplinary hearing that mentions how in 2001, after neglecting to tell his supervisor that he was being investigated for a criminal investigation involving a minor, Parsons was “reminded of the importance of notifying a supervisor when your actions may bring recognition to Ohio University and the Ohio University Police Department.” 

Ohio University never cleared or internally resolved the 2001 allegations that Parsons was sexually pursuing a minor female, according to the lawsuit. 

“At the proximate time Parsons’ abuse was taking place, Defendant Ohio University made public statements to local area media in which they claimed they terminated Parsons’ employment as soon as they knew he was under investigation (by Athens County Child Services) for engaging in sexual relationships with minors, but this was obviously untrue,” according to the suit. 

Parsons was convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor in Athens County Court in 2007. He appealed the decision to the Ohio Supreme Court, which found that “competent, credible evidence supports the trial court’s finding,” according to a previous Post report. Parsons spent about six months in Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail.

The woman is seeking about $10 million per claim in compensatory damages.

The woman also filed a complaint in the Athens County Court of Common Pleas on Oct. 15 against Parsons and his then-supervisor, Christopher Johnson, another former OUPD officer and close friend of Parsons, according to the lawsuit. 

It alleges that Johnson had also been “deliberately indifferent” toward Parsons’ sexual abuse of minors. He had been in charge of OUPD’s internal investigation into Parsons’ behavior and allowed him to keep his university-provided keys and computer, which Parsons used to continue abusing the woman during the investigation, according to the Oct. 15 lawsuit.

Parsons was also able to read the report about investigators’ interview with the woman, allowing him to be able to coach her into giving answers that would keep him out of trouble, according to the Oct. 15 lawsuit.

“Defendant Johnson’s inaction and unwillingness to restrict Parsons’ work-related access and privileges while he was having sexual relationships with minors only enabled Parsons to more aggressively seek out, contact, and exert influence over his victims,” according to the Oct. 15 lawsuit.

Johnson was placed on administrative leave in 2012 for allegations about on-duty sexual misconduct involving a female officer, according to the Oct. 15 lawsuit. 

The woman also filed a complaint against the university in the Ohio Court of Claims in April. She is demanding a jury trial for both the Oct. 15 and Oct. 28 lawsuits.

“Ohio University does not tolerate sexual misconduct of any kind and abuse of a minor is especially egregious,” Carly Leatherwood, a university spokeswoman, said in a statement. “(OU) promptly place him on administrative leave upon learning of the allegations against him.”


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