Nome man charged with 22 counts of sexual abuse of minors
By Diana Haecker
A Nome man was last week charged with 22 counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree and two counts of sexual abuse in the second degree.
Robert O’Connor, 72, was arrested in Nome on Thursday, January 26 and appeared telephonically in court on Friday.
Charging documents allege that O’Connor sexually abused five young victims, occurring between 1990 and 2022. According to court documents, the survivors’ ages when they suffered the sexual abuse ranged from as young as four-years-old to age 15. Two counts of sexual abuse stem from abuse of a survivor who was first sexually abused as a teenager and then again as an adult.
All alleged crimes took place in Nome.
The defendant had been convicted of sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree in 1986 and was then sentenced to three years in jail with two years suspended, according to court records printed in The Nome Nugget.
Nome Police Dept. Investigator William Crockett reported in the police affidavit accompanying the charging document that multiple victims came forward in January 2023 to report sexual abuse by the defendant.
Crockett said in an interview with the Nugget that two survivors discovered photographic evidence that led them to believe that they were not the only victims of Robert O’Connor’s sexual abuse, which prompted them to come forward and report the crimes to the police.
Crockett said that the recent filing of the Isaac Ozenna case, also involving decades of alleged sexual abuse of minors, triggered conversations between two survivors and when one of the victims saw evidence of another person having been molested, “it was kind of the straw that broke the back,” Crockett said.
According to Crockett, the defendant was cooperating and although he couldn’t remember one victim, he stated that he believed “it happened as reported,” according to court documents.
Furthermore, in some incidents the survivors were incapacitated, and O’Connor told investigators what happened, admitting crimes he had committed that the victims did not even know about.
In court on Friday morning, Magistrate Pamela Smith read the charges, most of which are unclassified felonies. The defendant, housed at AMCC, and the prosecution were present telephonically.
“This is an extraordinarily serious case with allegations that are spanning decades, involving five different victims,” State prosecutor Ashly Crockett said. She spoke to the defendant’s prior conviction of sexual abuse of a minor. “All of these factors contribute to the concern that the defendant does pose a very great risk to the community if he’s released. A substantial amount of bail is appropriate in this case, the state is requesting $250,000 bail and a third-party custodian,” she said.
Judge Smith considered the evidence in the charging documents, the decades and gravity of the alleged crimes and the fact that O’Connor is not currently working a job – prior he worked as a cab driver. “Given the information before us, the number of the alleged victims, the alleged confession, the previous conviction, I think $250,000 is sufficient to ensure their safety and security,” Magistrate Judge Smith said. In the event O’Connor posts bail, the judge ordered a third-party custodian, no contact with the victims and not to be in the room with persons under 18 years without an adult present.
The next preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 6.
Investigator Crockett asked if there are other victims of O’Connor to please come forward. Also, if there are survivors of sexual abuse by other perpetrators who remained silent until now, to speak to the police. “I want it to be known to people out here that that the Nome Police Department has the ability and is willing to work these cases, and we can get positive resolution here,” he said. The Nome Police Department under past chiefs had a history of not investigating sex crimes but Crockett said those days are over. “I think there’s been a history of a fear of coming forward. Because I think the department has not, in the past, been very successful at approaching these cases in a manner that they can successfully and adequately investigated for the district attorney’s office to go forward on. That’s no longer the case,” he said.
“It’s pretty clear that this has been a very underserved community for many, many years, and many, many victims of these types of crimes have not felt like they’ve had an outlet or an ability to report and to have a credible investigation done. So, you know, we want we want the people of Nome to know that we’re ready to take these cases, we want to investigate these cases. These are cases that have to be worked by society, these are just unacceptable behaviors that affect people for the rest of their lives.”