SHAWNEE — In Pottawatomie County District Court today, Special District Judge David Cawthon issued a continuance in the case of former Shawnee Public Schools assistant athletic director Ron Arthur after District Attorney Allan Grubb recused himself from the case at the request of the alleged victims.
The district’s former high school boys basketball coach, Arthur is charged with soliciting sexual contact with a minor by use of technology, forcible sodomy and first-degree rape. Shelley Levisay, Arthur’s attorney in the case, attended the proceedings virtually, as did Corey Stone, an attorney for the prosecution. The preliminary hearing in the case, which was scheduled for Thursday, is now set for Friday, April 29.
“I received word at about 11:40 this morning that the preliminary hearing in this matter isn’t ready to proceed,” Cawthon said. “I can’t do anything today with respect to approving a reassignment. That’s up to the [Attorney General’s] Office.”
Stone informed Cawthon that Grubb received an email from one of the victims a day or two before the hearing requesting that the case be reassigned owing to concerns about an alleged conflict of interest between Grubb and Levisay, Arthur’s attorney.
On April 19, the Facebook page Shawnee Parent Voice posted a screenshot of campaign filing information from Grubb’s campaign in the 2022 DA race, in which Levisay was listed as campaign treasurer. (She is now listed as “inactive.”) Stone said in court Thursday that Levisay also assisted with campaign filings for Grubb’s 2018 campaign.
After being asked to recuse, Grubb “agreed to do so by letter to the Attorney General yesterday,” Stone said.
Cawthon questioned whether the letter had also been sent by email or fax. Stone said it was not. Cawthon also asked whether the victims had been informed and why no one from the District Attorney’s Office had informed the victims of the potential conflict of interest sooner.
“What I’m stuck with today is a court reporter that has other matters she could attend to, witnesses that it shows have been subpoenaed, last-minute notice to the court of request not to proceed due to a non-written request for reassignment, which was put in the mail a day before the hearing — snail mail — and verbal notice to the court right before lunch,” Cawthon said. “It would have been much more professional if all of this matter had been documented and filed so it could be public record and open to the public so accurate conclusions could be reached.”
Levisay denied the conflict and said she had gone on record regarding her relationship with Grubb at the time the case came forward, in the fall of 2021.
Cawthon postponed the hearing to 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 29, to allow the AG’s Office time to receive and process the paperwork they “should have received by now.”
Anna Brannon, from the AG’s Office, also participated in the proceedings virtually and said she was aware that the recusal request had been sent, but she said she could not confirm whether it had arrived.
“Once the Attorney General’s Office receives the actual letter of recusal, we can reassign that out,” Brannon said. “As of today, we’re not prepared to do so.”
‘Our predators are empowered and our kids and teachers are muzzled’
According to allegations in court documents, between approximately March and July 2021, Arthur used a smart phone to repeatedly contact a then-17-year-old Shawnee Public Schools student in order to coerce the alleged victim into sexual conduct.
On approximately May 22, 2021, Arthur allegedly performed oral sex on a recently graduated student in a rural area near Shawnee. The second-degree rape charge stems from an alleged 2011 incident in which Arthur provided an 18-year-old Shawnee High School student with alcohol and other anesthetizing agents before penetrating the victim.
Arthur was arrested in August and had his educator certificate suspended by the State Board of Education the same month.
This isn’t the first time Arthur has been accused of misconduct with students, however.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, upon further investigation with search warrants, the Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Department found in Arthur’s employment file at Shawnee Public Schools that he had been issued eight admonishments for making vulgar and sexual comments to male students and for making vulgar comments about female students. The district had also received allegations of having inappropriately touched a male student’s buttocks, sending inappropriate text messages to students and having contact with students alone when he was not allowed to, per his previous reinstatements.
On April 6, Sen. Shane Jett (R-Shawnee) held a press conference at which a 2007 victim of Arthur’s, Rob Hair, told his story and Jett announced that he would be requesting that Attorney General John O’Connor launch a multi-county grand jury investigation into the allegations against Arthur and into what Jett called a 15-year pattern of sexual abuse and coverup within the school district.
Shawnee Public Schools parent Leslie Gilbert told NonDoc that she and her husband, Travis Gilbert, contacted Jett with their concerns about the school district in the fall of 2021. She said she had tried raising the issues with members of the local school board, but she found they would not listen to her concerns.
“It’s terrifying knowing I’m sending my kids to school and they’re not in a safe place when school should be a very safe place for them,” Gilbert said. “Our predators are empowered and our kids and teachers are muzzled. Teachers are the only ones that are willing to stand up on the inside of the school, but the administrators just shut them down.”
Gilbert attended the Shawnee Public Schools Board met on April 7, the day after Jett’s press call for a grand jury investigation.
Also on April 7, district spokesperson Cherity Pennington said in an email to NonDoc that the board was unaware of Jett’s press conference and that Jett had never reached out regarding his concerns.
Pennington also said that, owing to the pending litigation, the district is unable to discuss the situation further than its initial statement issued in August.
“Everybody who enabled him has got to be held accountable,” Gilbert said. “They have to know that we love our kids and will do anything we have to for them. They have to know that our kids are not their conquest.”