Three weeks ago, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice David Patrick Connor, whose research interests included sex offender policy and treatment, was quietly placed on leave pending an investigation into “a serious matter” that occurred before Connor joined Seattle University as a faculty member.
The serious matter, revealed Tuesday, March 6 in an email statement from Interim Provost Robert Dullea, was a felony conviction involving sexual misconduct with a minor in Michigan.
This information was brought to the attention of the criminal justice department by a group of students, who then approached the provost and Dean David Powers of the College of Arts & Sciences on Feb. 13. Connor was placed on leave the same day the university opened an investigation and a subsequent review of the college’s hiring process.
Students from the criminal justice department became aware of Connor’s criminal background in early February before notifying the department. Many of their concerns were rooted in a 2006 article published by the Macomb Daily, a newspaper outside of Detroit, Mich. about a 21-year- old Kentucky man who repeatedly molested a 13-year-old girl from Warren, Mich.
The Macomb Daily article reported that the man, David Patrick Connor, drove nearly five hours from Kentucky to Michigan on multiple occasions to meet a 13-year-old girl. Investigators believed the two met online through a chat room.
A detective on the case told the judge at Connor’s arraignment that Connor had intercourse and engaged in other sexual acts with the girl.
On Connor’s fourth trip to meet the girl, he was apprehended by police and charged with four counts of third- degree criminal sexual conduct— which is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison—along with four counts of fourth- degree criminal sexual conduct, a two-year misdemeanor.
It is important to note that in the Macomb Daily article, the last name is spelt both Connor and Conner. According to the Seattle U website, the correct spelling is the former. It is unclear if his name was changed or simply misspelled in the 2006 article.
Connor has conducted extensive research in the areas in which he was convicted. According to his Curriculum Vitae still posted on the university’s website, Connor graduated from Northern Kentucky University in 2009, and later received masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Louisville, placing him in Kentucky at the time of these crimes.
Furthermore, according to the CV, Connor’s areas of research interest included sex offender policy and treatment, inmate reentry and social deviance and stigma.
Students in Connor’s classes and faculty in the criminal justice department were notified of his leave on Feb. 13, and the rest of the department was notified of the investigation about two weeks later by Dean Powers.
In the statement sent out on March 6, Dullea said that Connor’s prior conviction was identified by both a background check and was self- disclosed by Connor, but was never communicated to either the dean of arts and sciences, where the Criminal Justice department is housed, or former provost Isiaah Crawford.
“The university’s review, while ongoing, has revealed that—despite Dr. Connor’s disclosure of the conviction and despite the university’s uniform background-check requirement for new faculty and staff which identified the conviction— the existence and details of Dr. Connor’s criminal history were not communicated to Dean Powers or Provost Crawford,” Dullea said.
Powers said that, for reasons that are unclear at this time, this information was not brought to his attention.
“Usually, the process whereby that information gets to the provost, and the provost tells me if there’s something that needs to be looked into,” Powers said. “I didn’t get that call when I would usually get that call.”
Powers said that notifying the dean and the provost in situations like this is normal protocol. The Title IX office has also been notified.
Dullea said in his statement that the university is now in the process of making changes to its faculty hiring processes, including an additional round of background checks, to prevent such an administrative error from reoccurring.
Dullea declined multiple requests for additional comment from the Spectator, and deferred any further requests to his official statement.
“Seattle University is committed to the safety and well-being of all individuals, especially minors,” Dullea wrote in the statement. “As we proceed to address this matter, we will do so consistent with the mission and values of the university, emphasizing justice, care, and compassion for all concerned.”
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