PADUCAH — A judge says there is probable cause to present before a grand jury the case of John Parks, the former volunteer fishing coach at McCracken County High School accused of sexually abusing a 16-year-old student.
District Judge Chris Hallowell made the decision during a preliminary hearing Thursday afternoon. After a grand jury reviews the case and decides whether to indict Parks, he is scheduled to be arraigned in circuit court on April 11.
According to testimony from Detective Capt. Ryan Norman with the McCracken County Sheriff’s Department, investigators learned on Feb. 14 that a 16-year-old McCracken County High School student was accusing Parks of inappropriate contact.
The 16-year-old student said he was a member of the high school fishing team and that his coach, Parks, touched him on the butt and the upper thigh area between 50 and 100 times during the past year, Norman said during hearing.
“He stated that Parks would oftentimes grab his buttocks with a curved hand, much in the manner that sexual partners would do,” Norman testified. “He also stated that this happened while standing in line at restaurants in McCracken County and at bass fishing meetings in McCracken County.”
The 16-year-old alleged that the inappropriate contact happened in Marshall and Livingston counties as well, Norman told the court.
“He stated that made him feel very uncomfortable. He stated that it was not a butt slap as it’s sometimes common in sports to celebrate a good play or anything, but that it was in a sexual manner,” Norman testified.
Norman said the 16-year-old also told investigators that Parks had grabbed or placed his hand on the teen’s upper thigh between 75 and 100 times.
“He stated that his hand would get extremely close to his penis or other sexual organs and that he would try to pull away when Mr. Parks did that,” Norman testified.
Norman said that the teen was worried that things would escalate.
In addition, the 16-year-old told investigators about an incident in November 2018, in which Parks allegedly texted the teen asking what he was doing. The teen replied that he had just stepped out of a shower. The teen said Parks asked where his picture was, and the teen believed that Parks was asking for a nude photo, Norman said.
Norman testified that investigators also reviewed text messages between Parks and the 16-year-old student.
“In the text messages, Parks told the juvenile male several times that he needed a spanking, that he needed to see the juvenile, called the juvenile numerous affectionate names, and sent a meme or GIF to the juvenile male of a fairy being spanked,” Norman testified.
Norman said investigators interviewed Parks, who characterized the allegations as “horseplay.”
“During the interview, Mr. Parks stated that he loved the victim like a son and tried to take care of him the best he could. Stated that he would engage in horseplay and pinch the juvenile in the back of the leg,” Norman told the court. “He stated that he was never going to — he wasn’t going to say that he never grabbed his butt horsing around, but that it happened a lot. He stated it was not uncommon for him to grab the back of a kid’s legs and smacked them on the butt. He couldn’t tell detectives if he ever placed his hand on the juvenile victim’s upper leg and later denied placing his hand on the victim’s upper thigh.”
Parks later told investigators that he wasn’t trying to “cop a feel,” Norman said.
“He said even if he did gain excitement from touching the victim, he didn’t cross the line, agreed that he didn’t touch private parts, and stated that even if he gained excitement from doing those things, that excitement per say, isn’t illegal,” Norman testified.
Norman said investigators also found several nude pictures on Parks’ phone. Parks had thought the male in one of the pictures had just turned 18, but was unsure how old he was when the photo was taken, Norman testified. Detectives later found the person in the picture, and learned he was younger than 18 when the photo was taken, Norman said. The male told investigators he did not give Parks permission to obtain the photo.
“He stated that the juvenile male was cute as well as others on the team are cute as well, and referred to the naked picture that was located as a special situation,” said Norman. “He stated he has demons and he has attractions to younger men.”
When Local 6 approached Parks and his attorney after the hearing, they would not comment.
Norman said the 16-year-old’s parents told McCracken County High School about the allegations, but the school did not report them to law enforcement. Parks is one of several people with connections to the school who is under investigation.