Former Ohio University police officer found liable for abuse of Alison Arocho

Several claims in the case are heading to a jury trial. Meanwhile, Arocho’s appeal of a related case against OU remains pending.
Photo by Dani Kington

ATHENS, Ohio — Former Ohio University police officer Robert Andrew Parsons is liable for his 2005 sexual abuse of Alison Arocho, then 15, an Athens County Court of Common Pleas judge found last week. The judge granted Arocho’s request for partial summary judgment in her civil suit, finding Parsons liable on two claims; seven remain on track for a jury trial.

Parsons was sentenced to six months in the Southeast Ohio Regional Jail in 2007, after he pleaded no contest to unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. 

Arocho’s appeal in a related case claiming OU is also liable for her abuse remains pending in the Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals. The appeal centers on Arocho’s contention that a judge should not have quashed her subpoena for Athens County Children Services records on Parsons. 


Arocho argues the records were necessary to establish whether OU knew that Parsons was likely to engage in sexual misconduct with minors. She has argued that OU’s employment of Parsons as a police officer helped facilitate the abuse she suffered. 

“Of course, I’m elated that justice is starting to be served,” said Arocho. “It’s been a difficult process. We are hopeful for the upcoming appeal.”

Arocho has alleged that Parsons raped her as many as 100 times from 2005 to 2006, beginning when she was 15. Parsons said he had sex with Arocho three times while she was a child. 

Arocho has said Parsons almost always got her intoxicated before raping her, which Parsons has denied. Further, Arocho has said Parsons used his authority as a police officer to intimidate her and her family into complying with his wishes.

Lawsuit against Parsons

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In his decision that Parsons was liable for his abuse of Arocho, Judge John T. Wallace found “there are no genuine issues of material fact” regarding Arocho’s claims of battery or Parsons’s civil liability resulting from his unlawful sexual contact with a minor, the criminal charge to which he pleaded no contest. 

To support her battery claim, Arocho referred to Parsons’s admission at a November trial in the related case against OU that he engaged in sexual contact with her three times while she was a child. 

As a result of Wallace’s finding on the battery claim, Arocho will be awarded compensatory damages for the financial toll the abuse had on her life. The finding on the other claim will allow a jury to award punitive damages as well, punishing Parsons for his conduct.

Arocho’s attorney Michael Fradin said this case is “deserving” of punitive damages.

The case should be set for a final trial on remaining claims and a hearing about damages Arocho will be awarded, Wallace’s order said. Fradin said he expects these remaining issues to be resolved at the same trial, likely some time in 2024.

The claims remaining in Arocho’s lawsuit include intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress; assault, gross sexual imposition and rape; civil liability for Parsons contributing to Arocho’s delinquency “when he pressured Plaintiff Arocho into consuming alcohol and marijuana on numerous occasions”; and a claim that Parsons violated Arocho’s 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law, because his “unlawful sexual conduct was committed during, and under the authority of” his employment at OU.

Fradin said he included only two claims in the motion for summary judgment because he felt they “were the two that we could demonstrate that there was not any ability — through affidavits or any sort of evidentiary theory — anything that Parsons could make an argument that there was [an issue of] material fact.”

Parsons, who is representing himself in the lawsuit, did not respond to a request for comment.

Appeal against OU

Ohio Court of Claims Judge Dale Crawford found after a 2022 trial that OU was not liable for Parsons’s abuse of Arocho. Ohio Attorney General’s Office attorneys argued at trial that the abuse was “not reasonably foreseeable.” Attorneys emphasized Arocho’s lack of connection to the university and that Arocho never reported the abuse to OU. 

Arocho argued at trial that OU was still responsible to Arocho, because Parsons was able to use his authority as an officer to intimidate her, and because a 2001 Athens County Children Services investigation into Parsons’s conduct should have put OU on notice that he was likely to engage in sexual misconduct with minors. Arocho’s arguments didn’t convince Crawford.

However, Arocho argues in her appeal that “necessary evidence was unavailable.” This refers to ACCS records concerning Parsons. During the course of trial preparation, then-presiding Judge Patrick McGrath quashed Arocho’s subpoena for the records, following a request by Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn, representing ACCS.

McGrath said Arocho could receive a fair trial without the ACCS records, which are typically confidential case materials. However, Crawford said at trial that, had he presided over the case at the time, he would have granted the subpoena. 

ACCS conducted an investigation into Parsons’s conduct with Arocho, as well as a prior investigation involving Parsons in 2001. OU was made aware of the 2001 investigation, which pertained to an allegation “similar” to those made against Parsons in 2005, according to a 2005 OU memo. The memo states the 2001 complaint alleged Parsons “tried to initiate sexual relations with a juvenile female.”

Parsons claimed at the trial against OU that the investigation revolved around an incident in which he gave his daughter’s friend a ride home. He said he reached over his minor passenger to open her car door because it did not open easily. He said the child viewed this action as a “pass,” or sexual advance. 

Because the ACCS case materials were not introduced in court, Parsons’s testimony was the only evidence about the specifics of the 2001 investigation.

ACCS Public Information Officer Matt Starkey told the Independent, “We stand by the order to quash the subpoena as it would have opened the agency up to further legal action regarding the confidentiality of records.”

Starkey said in an email, “In this case, the attorney representing the plaintiff failed to specify any records regarding the case, Athens County Children Services was not a party to the case, and there was no case pending before the court in dependency, neglect or abuse. Therefore, Athens County Children Services is prohibited from sharing information on the child(ren) involved in the case.”

Arocho argues in her appeal that McGrath should have considered redacting ACCS documents to provide complete evidence for trial while protecting confidentiality.

Arocho contends in her appeal that the ACCS investigations concerning Parsons “provided actual notice to the Ohio University Police Department of the defendant Parsons’s tendency towards sexually abusing minors, including Alison.”

However, in its reply to her appeal, OU argues that it cannot be assumed that the ACCS documents from 2001 established any “proof of wrongdoing by Parsons while he was off-duty.” Additionally, OU says there is no evidence it would have had notice that Parsons was likely to abuse Arocho had OU had access to the documents.

OU points out, “The 2001 CPS interview of Parsons did not result in any law enforcement or judicial proceedings; there was no issuance of a no-contact order or restraining order; there was no further investigation beyond the initial interview. CPS determined that the allegation leading to the interview was unfounded.”

OU additionally notes that there is “no actual evidence regarding what information ACCS had and what, if any, information was communicated by ACCS to OU.” Therefore, Arocho cannot say “that she was prejudiced by the trial court’s decision,” OU said.

It’s the lack of evidence regarding the 2001 investigation that Arocho takes issue with, however. 

OU’s argument “dismisses the possibility of uncovering new or relevant information through the ACCS documents,” Arocho argues. “But the denial of access to the ACCS documents has resulted in an incomplete record, severely prejudicing Alison’s ability to fully present her case and necessitating a reconsideration of the trial court’s decision.”

OU also argues Arocho should have renewed her subpoena later on in the process. Fradin told the Independent that he had no reason to do so, because McGrath said in his order that Arocho could receive a fair trial without the documents. Had Arocho renewed the subpoena after it was already denied, Fradin said this could have prompted sanctions by the court.

“We’re appealing it, which is the method for getting a decision overturned,” Fradin said.

In her appeal, Arocho says the magnitude of the trial court’s error in not granting the subpoena for ACCS documents “compels this court to grant an entire reversal of the trial court’s decision.”

When Arocho initially filed her appeal, the docketing statement raised various complaints about the trial beyond the subpoena issue, including that the judge improperly used “inadmissible evidence” and was overly aggressive in questioning Arocho and her sister.

Fradin said the appeal brief only raised the subpoena issue, because it most clearly “resulted in a trial where we didn’t have the resources that we should have been able to look into in order to have a fair chance to succeed.”

“Some of the other arguments … even though we feel as if they were highly unfair, we feel an appellate court may be more likely to decide that it’s the court’s discretion,” Fradin said. 

Both OU Chief of Staff Carly Leatherwood and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which represents OU, declined to comment for this story.

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