WARNING: This report contains graphic details of alleged sexual abuse.
GRADY COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – The Grady County Sheriff says the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation will help investigate a former Ninnekah Public Schools coach accused of sexually abusing several girls, and he claims the investigation will disprove a lawsuit’s assertion that his office failed to stop the coach after an early sex abuse allegation.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma on behalf of 12 alleged female victims of Ronald Akins, a former girls basketball coach at Ninnekah’s high school and junior high.
Eleven of the plaintiffs were Ninnekah students, but the first plaintiff listed in the lawsuit was a student of Friend Public School in Chickasha, where Akins worked as a teacher and girls basketball coach from 2005 through 2013, prior to his time at Ninnekah.
Ninnekah Public Schools, Friend Public Schools and Grady County Sheriff Jim Weir are listed as defendants. Other defendants include 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.
Grady County Sheriff’s Office investigators arrested Akins in late June on suspicion of rape and sexual battery. Weir announced Thursday that OSBI will continue the investigation alongside Bellan Gornick, a Sheriff’s Office investigator.
Weir said the investigation will focus upon sexual abuse allegations against Akins, not the lawsuit’s allegations against him and the schools.
“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,” Weir told KFOR in a phone interview on Thursday.
The lawsuit states that Weir and Blevins, who now works as an investigator for the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office, endangered the victims through their “deliberate indifference to credible reports” that Akins had a sexual relationship with one or more students at Ninnekah and Friend schools, and that their indifference allowed Akins to prey upon the girls at the schools.
“I think the allegations against the Sheriff’s Office are completely unsubstantiated. There is nothing there to investigate,” Weir said. “You can put anything you want in a lawsuit; it doesn’t mean it’s true. My office always goes to every extent to make sure every allegation is investigated to the fullest.”
The lawsuit states that Akins began sexually assaulting the Friend Public Schools student in 2009. He is alleged to have isolated the girl, a young teen, in the gym and said words to the effect of, “What would you do if I kissed you?”
Akins allegedly escalated his sexual behavior toward the Friend student, on one occasion hugging her and kissing her with an open mouth, using his tongue; on another occasion, coming upon her from behind, placing his hands under shirt and bra and groping her breasts; and on a third occasion, forcibly sticking his hand down her pants and fondling her genitals, and then forcing her hand down his pants to touch his penis.
The lawsuit says around that time, another Friend teacher entered a classroom and saw a young female student jump off of Akins’ lap.
“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 teacher was directed to never speak of this again,” the lawsuit states.
The Friend student who Akins allegedly sexually assaulted reported to the Sheriff’s Office that Akins sexually assaulted her.
The lawsuit said Blevins was assigned to investigate the allegation. Weir, during his phone interview with KFOR, said he was sheriff when the Friend student alleged that Akins sexually assaulted her.
The student gave Blevins a piece of paper that she said Akins slipped in her locker. Akins wrote “I love you” on the paper, according to the lawsuit.
Blevins told the student that the Grady County District Attorney would never prosecute Akins without a corroborating witness, which he described as another girl sexually assaulted by Akins, according to the lawsuit.
The student learned of another victim at the school and notified Blevins, the lawsuit states.
“Blevins took no action to follow up on this report. However, Defendant Blevins explicitly told [the plaintiff] that the investigation was still pending and open,” the lawsuit states.
Weir stands by the investigation.
“It was thoroughly investigated by the investigator. It was several years ago. It’s hard for me as sheriff to look back and say why charges were not filed at that time. There’s a lot of reasons cases move forward other than accusations of us sweeping it under the rug,” Weir said. “At the time, I was offended that someone would make an accusation that we would let a sex offender off and sweep it under the rug. 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.”
Weir said his office still has documents from the investigation, but he said those documents do not state why Akins was not arrested.
The lawsuit states that the plaintiffs’ attorneys have information and belief that Blevins resigned from the Grady County Sheriff’s Office in lieu of being terminated because of “the danger he created” for the victims listed in the lawsuit by failing to take seriously allegations that Akins sexually assaulted a second Friend student.
KFOR contacted Blevins by phone while he was working at the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office on Friday, and asked why he chose to not pursue an arrest on Akins. He said he could not comment at this time, but that he “will be glad when everything comes out.”
Weir spoke with KFOR again on Friday, denying that Blevins resigned in lieu of being terminated.
“That is absolutely untrue,” Weir said. “He got an offer for the job at the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office to oversee their entire investigations unit, and he would be making a lot more money than he was working for me, to my knowledge. He was not under threat of termination at all.”
Akins resigned from Friend in 2013 and began working for Ninnekah Public Schools.
The lawsuit goes on to detail several sexual assaults Akins is alleged to have committed against Ninnekah students, and asserts that school officials did not protect students or take seriously complaints against the coach.
Weir said Akins is now charged with sexually assaulting the Friend student who made the first allegation several years ago.
“We went back because of the new information,” Weir 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.”
Brook Arbeitman, OSBI Public Information Officer, confirmed that OSBI will investigate alleged sexual assaults at Ninnekah Public Schools, and said that Sheriff’s Office officials also requested OSBI agents investigate unrelated allegations of misconduct by a Sheriff’s Office employee.
Weir said the investigation into the Sheriff’s Office employee concerns an internal matter unrelated to the Ninnekah investigation.
If you need to report a sexual abuse incident allegedly involving Akins, please call the Grady County Sheriff’s Office at (405) 224-0984.