Cutler Hall outside

Cutler Hall, home of the office of the president of Ohio University. File photo.

A lawsuit was filed in late October in federal court against Ohio University, alleging that the university fostered a “safe space” to allow a now-fired OU Police Officer to continue to sexually abuse a 15-year-old Athens County girl.

This is the third lawsuit that’s been filed so far this year by Athens and Chicago-based attorney Michael Fradin relating to the conduct of fired OU Police officer Robert A. Parsons, who pleaded no contest to a single count of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor in Athens County Common Pleas Court in 2006. This latest suit was filed in the Southern Ohio District of the U.S. District Court.

Parsons is not named in this latest suit. However, a lawsuit filed in Athens County Common Pleas Court last month named both him and current Nelsonville Police Chief Chris Johnson, a lieutenant at the OUPD at the time of the investigation into Parsons in 2005-2006. Meanwhile, another suit – alleging similar misconduct in this matter – was filed against OU in the Ohio Court of Claims earlier this year.

The latest suit – filed by Fradin on behalf of Marietta resident Alison Arocho, who filed the other two actions as well – alleges that OU and Parsons’ supervisors allowed Parsons to “sexually abuse” and “rape” Arocho on multiple occasions, despite the university having “actual notice” of Parson’s alleged bad behavior, even before he was investigated by Athens County Children Services in late 2005.

The university has denied those allegations, as have Johnson and Parsons in statements made last month. Parsons specifically said he “vehemently denied” the allegations in the Common Pleas Court suit, except for “what I was charged with 15 years ago.”

The suit alleges that Parsons raped Arocho in 2005, starting when she was 15, on multiple occasions during his work hours at “work-related locations,” including on OU property and in his police cruiser, as well as “at least two other minors that he interacted with through the course of his employment with the Ohio University Police Department.” The age of consent in Ohio is 16, so this would be considered statutory rape.

The lawsuit alleges that an investigator with Athens County Children Services interviewed Parsons and notified Johnson of the ongoing investigation into Parsons and that he was “a danger to minors” on or about Dec. 2, 2005.

Despite that, the suit alleges, “Parsons continued active employment with the Ohio University Police Department even after (investigator) Jill Dorfman notified defendants that, in all likelihood, Parsons had carried on at least one unlawful and abusive sexual relationship with a minor (or minors), and used his position of authority to do so.”

One of the main differences in this latest lawsuit filed in federal court is that the suit alleges that Parsons was accused of sexual misconduct involving a minor dating back to 2000-2001, according to investigation notes obtained by Arocho from the university.

Included in the suit is a Jan. 10, 2006 letter from OU’s human resources director to then OUPD Chief Tony Camechis, noting that a lieutenant with that department interviewed Parsons in early 2001 after a complaint was filed with Athens County Children Services “alleging that he tried to initiate sexual relations with a juvenile female.” That letter also alleges that Parsons stated in an interview in 2005 that he “did not recall that he was told to notify a supervisor” of the 2001 investigation.

“Ohio University never cleared or internally resolved the 2000-2001 allegations that Parsons was sexually pursuing a minor female,” the suit alleges.

The lawsuit further alleges that between 2001 and 2006, Parsons was “often unaccounted for” during work hours, and alleges that during that time, Parsons was often “stalking, interacting with, or having inappropriate sexual contact with minor females.” It includes another exhibit of a note Parsons allegedly gave to an Athens High School student during his work hours, calling her a “hottie” and asking to meet up with her.

Parsons defended himself and the university’s investigation into his actions in a statement last month.

“Apparently Mr. Fradin believes he has conducted a more thorough investigation than the good men and women of Children Services and law enforcement,” Parsons wrote. “Mr. Fradin is grasping at imaginary straws and apparently is not familiar with the inner working of an internal investigation. Contrary to Mr. Fradin’s statements, I was immediately placed on paid administrative leave and banned from OU campus; I turned in my badge, weapon and keys, which are not permitted to leave OU property at anytime, and given instructions to make myself available during work hours.”

You can find a copy of the lawsuit and a copy of the exhibit regarding the past apparent investigation into Parsons' conduct at the end of this story.

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