BY: Clark Kauffman, Iowa Capital Dispatch
A former high school student is suing the Des Moines public school district, alleging her Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps instructor repeatedly had sex with her in a school office.
The woman was identified in court records only as Jane Doe. She states that in her freshman year of high school, she became active in the Central Academy’s JROTC program due to her career plans to serve in the military.
The program instructor, Robert Webb, now 52, allegedly began grooming Doe, singling her out for special assignments and favors and then giving her a leadership position working out of his office. Webb is also alleged to have integrated Doe into his family, calling on her to babysit his children and attend family functions.
Doe began skipping classes at Central Academy and at the district’s East High School to spend more time with Webb. She alleges he began pressing her for sexual favors in 2018, her senior year.
In November 2018, Webb allegedly took Doe hunting, then drove her to a remote area and initiated sexual contact. A few weeks later, on another hunting trip, Webb allegedly forced himself on her. After that, once or twice a week, Webb would allegedly have intercourse with Doe at the district’s Central Academy in a room that was part of the school’s JROTC office.
In March 2019, Webb allegedly took Doe to the Army National High School Drill Team Competition in Richmond, Va., where they spent a week in a hotel at the expense of the Army, and the two repeatedly engaged in sex.
Doe graduated from high school later that spring. In the fall, she attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids, but the two continued their relationship, with Webb allegedly demanding she carry a tracking device so he could monitor her movements.
In October 2020, when Doe was at a training exercise at Camp Dodge in Polk County, Webb allegedly threatened her, stalked her, followed her to training and told her he would destroy her life. After Doe reported the situation to her mother and college ROTC instructor, Webb was criminally charged with sexual exploitation by a school employee.
Police records indicate Webb admitted “through two different text messages” that he had sex with Doe while she was still 17 years old.
Records: Instructor pleaded guilty to a reduced charge
Court records show that Webb and prosecutors later agreed to a plea bargain, with Webb pleading guilty to a reduced charge of sexual exploitation of an 18-year-old student. As part of the deal, prosecutors also agreed not to recommend incarceration. The court later agreed to stipulate that while Webb was initially accused of having sex with a minor, the conviction on a charge of having sex with an 18-year-old adult meant the law imposing restrictions on his future employment did not apply.
Doe’s lawsuit accuses Webb of sexual assault, and the Des Moines Independent Community School District of negligent hiring, supervision and retention of employees; failing to properly investigate allegations of sexual abuse by Webb; and failing to ensure Webb had no opportunity to befriend and groom students.
The defendants have denied the allegations.