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More legal heat for alleged boogaloo member, friend in sex abuse probe

Updated July 16, 2020 - 4:37 pm

A longtime friend of suspected boogaloo member Stephen Parshall pleaded guilty in District Court on Thursday to sexually assaulting the right-wing extremist’s stepdaughter.

Phillip W. Merrill 35, whom police described as a convention worker and volleyball club coach, pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault with a minor under 16 and three counts of lewdness with a child under 14, all felonies. Together, the charges draw a sentence of life in prison with parole after 30 years.

This comes as Parshall, 36, was charged in a criminal complaint this week with 23 felony counts of sexually assaulting his stepdaughter and three lewdness counts.

Parshall’s alleged sexual abuse of the teenager, who is now 14, occurred between Oct. 1, 2015, and May 30, 2020, according to the complaint.

“He vehemently maintains his innocence,” defense lawyer Robert Draskovich said. “He is confident that there will be no objective proof to substantiate these allegations because they did not occur, and he looks forward to having his day in court to disprove these charges.”

Parshall, along with two other men, is facing terrorism charges in an alleged right-wing conspiracy to cause violence at Black Lives Matter protests.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Kristina Rhoades, who is prosecuting Merrill and Parshall in the sex abuse case, declined to comment.

Attorney Stephen Immerman, who is defending Merrill, told District Judge Tierra Jones Tuesday that his client was negotiating a related federal plea agreement involving child porn charges. Immerman declined to comment after court. Merrill is behind bars waiting to be sentenced in the state case on Oct. 12.

Authorities have not linked Merrill to the local boogaloo group.

Merrill’s alleged sex crimes occurred between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2019, court records show.

The allegations surfaced last week in a graphic police report obtained by the Review-Journal that justified Merrill’s June 24 arrest.

Parshall’s stepdaughter described to investigators how Merrill sexually abused her, the report says. She said Merrill often would babysit her and her younger sisters on Friday and Saturday nights when their parents went out.

The sex happened nearly every time Merrill came to the house, to the point where “she got used to the sexual abuse and just did what she had to do so that it would be over with,” the report alleges.

She often would pretend to be asleep while Merrill allegedly performed sex acts on her.

The girl’s mother told police that the teenager informed her three years ago that both Merrill and her husband had been assaulting her, but that she didn’t believe it, according to the report.

Merrill admitted to investigators that he had abused the girl while babysitting and described the alleged sexual acts he forced her to perform.

The investigation was launched after FBI agents found what they called “child sex abuse material” on a cellphone seized from Parshall during his May 30 arrest in connection with the alleged terror plot. Some of the photos showed a “partially nude, prepubescent” girl performing sex acts with a male, the arrest report alleges.

Explicit details of Parshall’s alleged mistreatment of his stepdaughter are also contained in the report.

The stepdaughter is quoted as telling investigators, “‘OK, I’m just gonna be completely honest with you. I’ve been having to, um, have sex with my dad, but I haven’t been able to tell anybody about it … and I tried telling my mom once, but she thought it was a whole lie.’”

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564. Contact Glenn Puit at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @JGermanRJ and @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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