Ron Arthur sentenced, Shawnee
Former Shawnee Public Schools basketball coach and athletic director Ron Arthur was sentenced to five years in prison in Pottawatomie County District Court on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. (Bennett Brinkman)

SHAWNEE — In a short hearing this afternoon, Pottawatomie County District Court Judge John Canavan accepted a jury’s recommendation and sentenced former Shawnee Public Schools basketball coach Ron Arthur to five years in prison for his November felony conviction of soliciting sex from a minor by use of technology.

Additionally, Canavan ordered Arthur to pay a $3,500 fine, which was also recommended by the jury. Although Arthur’s lawyer and brother asked the judge for leniency, prosecutors asked the judge to follow the jury’s recommendation.

The maximum sentence for Arthur’s conviction could have been 10 years in prison, but Canavan said during the hearing that Oklahoma statute prohibits him from imposing a sentence greater than the jury recommendation.

Arthur, who had faced a litany of misconduct allegations during his tenure at Shawnee Public Schools, was convicted for soliciting sex from a student who was 17 at the time. During the November trial, KOKH News 9 reported that other alleged victims came forward to testify against Arthur.

“It is apparent that this was a pattern that was going on for quite some time,” Canavan said before handing down the sentence.

Canavan also sentenced Arthur to five years of supervision after he is released from prison.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Arthur’s attorney, Shelley Levisay, attempted to downplay his actions, saying he is not a predator.

“We are not talking about 6-year-olds. We’re not talking about 8-year-olds. We’re talking about someone who was 17-years-and-nine-months-old lying about their age to be on Grindr,” Levisay said, referencing a phone app used to facilitate sexual encounters and relationships among men. “And every person that came in that he was talking with were on apps pretending to be 18 and seeking out relationships with men.”

‘I am concerned about retribution against my brother’

After Wednesday’s hearing, Levisay told reporters Arthur was “upset.”

“He was upset about some of the ways he was described by the victims and by the district attorney’s office, but he is ready to get the sentence done and return to his life,” Levisay said.

Arthur displayed little visible reaction in the courtroom during his sentencing hearing, which included two victim impact statements, one from the victim’s older brother and another from his mother. Neither family member appeared in the courtroom, but their written statements were read aloud during the hearing.

The brother’s statement was read first:

This heinous crime has had an incalculable impact on both myself and my family, forever changing our lives. When I first learned of what happened to my brother, I was working at a client’s house. (…) I fell to my knees in the middle of the client’s backyard and broke down in tears. I am concerned for my brother’s safety. The pile of human garbage that did these horrible things to my brother has done them before, and I worry that he will do them again. I am concerned about retribution against my brother and my family if this criminal is allowed to roam the world in the future, free of the shackles he so clearly deserves. (…) The only way we can be completely sure that no child ever again has to suffer the way my brother has suffered is to totally isolate him from the rest of society in perpetuity.

In her statement, the victim’s mom praised her son.

“He has an immeasurable strength and pure goodness in him that has overpowered everything evil and vile about you,” the mother wrote. “The only way children are safe from you is if you’re in prison for the rest of your life, as that is the only fitting punishment for your unspeakable crimes.”

The Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment prior to publication of this article.

Athur’s brother, Carl, is a pastor in Flint, Michigan. During his statement Wednesday, he called Ron Arthur a “fantastic man.”

“I trust him with my children,” Carl Arthur said. “My brother is not a monster. I watched him grow up. I watched him be a pillar of the community. I watched him change the lives of individuals. He did not go into the teaching business to be a [predator] or a monster to anyone. I refer back to the Bible because Jesus says, ‘Let he who did not sin throw the first stone.’ We all make mistakes and we all have sinned and come up short.”

Ron Arthur sentence comes with federal lawsuit pending

Arthur was initially charged Jan. 4, 2022, with solicitation as well as rape and forcible sodomy. The rape and forcible sodomy charges were later dropped after prosecutors said they felt they could only prove the solicitation charge.

Arthur’s case had drawn scrutiny to Shawnee Public Schools’ handling of accusations against Arthur, and it received attention from state legislators.

Sen. Shane Jett (R-Shawnee) called a press conference shortly after charges had been filed in January 2022 to call for a multi-county grand jury investigation into Arthur’s conduct and the district’s response to allegations against him.

“This wasn’t a first offense. It wasn’t a second. It was multiple offenses that spread over a 15-year period,” Jett said at the April 6, 2022 press conference.

A related lawsuit is pending in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma against Shawnee Public Schools and Arthur. Filed May 7, 2023, by a former Shawnee High School student, the lawsuit features an anonymous plaintiff and alleges that Arthur sexually harassed them and others and that the district was deliberately indifferent to previous complaints against him.