An Oklahoma county sheriff has called in state investigators to help with a child sexual abuse case after parents of victims filed a lawsuit claiming his department and school officials failed to adequately investigate a 2009 allegation against a former girls basketball coach.
Ronald Akins, at the time the coach for Ninnekah’s high school and junior high girl’s hoops teams and a teacher at the high school, charged in June after a former student reported him for a lewd or indecent act, KFOR reported.
Akins refused to talk with investigators about the allegation, the station said, but detectives had enough evidence for probable cause and arrested him. He was charged with rape by instrumentation and sexual battery.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of 12 alleged victims, names Ninnekah Public Schools, Friend Public Schools and Grady County Sheriff Jim Weir, along with Ninnekah Superintendent Todd Bunch, former Ninnekah teacher and assistant girls basketball coach Charles Yackeyonney, Ninnekah High School Principal David Pitts, former Ninnekah Schools athletics director and junior high principal Glen Shoemake, former Ninnekah employee Tammara Garrett, and former Grady County Sheriff’s Office deputy Phillip Blevins.
KFOR said that all but one of the 12 alleged victims were Ninnekah students, but one was a student at Friend Public School in Chickasha during Akins’ time as a teacher and girls basketball coach there, between 2005 and 2013, before he came to Ninnekah. It’s that case that the lawsuit claims school and law enforcement officials failed to investigate thoroughly.
The lawsuit charges Weir and Blevins, who now works at the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office, endangered the victims with “deliberate indifference to credible reports” of Akins’ sexual relationships with students at Ninnekah and Friend. According to the lawsuit, Akins began ever-increasing sexual behavior toward the friend student in 2009, up to sticking his hand down her pants and fondling her and forcing her to do the same to him.
The suit also says that another Friend teacher saw a female student jump from Akins’ lap when she entered a classroom.
“The teacher reported the incident to administration, but she was reprimanded and told she was going to ruin a man’s life and reputation,” the lawsuit says. “The teacher was directed to never speak of this again.”
The student reported the alleged sexual assault to the sheriff’s office, the lawsuit says, and it was assigned to Blevins, who reportedly told her prosecutors would not charge Akins with a corroborating witness, particularly another victim. The student reportedly learned of another victim and reported the information to Blevins, “took no action to follow up on this report.”
The lawsuit, filed on August 16, also claims that former athletics director Shoemake forced two students to write an apology to Akins for calling him a pedophile and deliver it to him, Fox25 reported.
Weir denies allegations that his office failed to thoroughly investigate the claims.
“It would be ludicrous to suggest that my office would sweep under the rug charges of sexual misconduct by anybody. That would just not happen,” he said, although he added that he doesn’t know why Akins was not arrested in 2009.
Weir also said that Akins has now been charged with the 2009 incidents.
“We went back because of the new information,” he said. “He’s been charged with multiple counts against multiple victims at this point in the investigation, but the investigation is still moving forward. I fully expect Mr. Akins to go to jail for a long, long time.”
Weir announced the inclusion of state investigators on Thursday, saying they will be focusing on the allegations against Akins and not the lawsuit.
“OSBI and [our] investigator will be working hand and hand. Apparently, some of the mothers have questioned the integrity of my office. For everything to be above board, we are working hand and hand with OSBI to show that this man will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.
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[Featured image: Ronald Akins/Grady County Sheriff’s Office]