by Irvin Muchnick and Tim Joyce
In our first analyses, over the weekend, of newly released documents from the Fort Lauderdale city government, we began unraveling the 2004 cover-up of monster USA Swimming coach Alex Pussieldi, which was aided and abetted by Sharon Robb, a reporter for the Sun-Sentinel.
We now turn to the cover-ups – the word is used considerately – of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and the Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation Department. First, the police.
The alleged victim in the February 13, 2004, physical altercation with Pussieldi, on the deck of the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex, told police that Pussieldi had been his legal guardian from 2000 to 2002, as well as his swimming coach. The swimmer, a Mexican national, lived with other foreign youth athletes (mostly from Pussieldi’s native Brazil) in Pussieldi’s house.
In the investigation of the incident completed the next year on behalf of USA Swimming’s National Board of Review, the swimmer told the investigator the full background of his fight with Pussieldi: The Mexican had discovered that Pussieldi had a hidden camera in the bathroom he and the other swimmer-tenant-wards were using, and took secret videos of them there. Other witnesses corroborated this, and added that the coaching staff of the Fort Lauderdale Swim Team was confronted with the information. A coach, most likely head coach and owner Jack Nelson, explained that Pussieldi was seeking psychiatric treatment and pleaded with informers not to go public with a scandal that would ruin the club.
We again refer you to the document we uploaded on February 11: http://muchnick.net/pussieldi.pdf. Heavily redacted by USA Swimming lawyers, this reports on the investigator’s December 2004 interview of the Mexican swimmer. These reporters came across the document in the court records of a civil lawsuit against USA Swimming by another alleged victim of coach sexual abuse at another club, and we deduced that it referred to Pussieldi. (The date and incident details aligned with contemporaneous news accounts, and the USA Swimming investigator stated in a deposition that the coach’s initials were “AP.”)
The USA Swimming document in our possession does not mention an additional allegation: that the foreign swimmers discovered in Pussieldi’s bedroom videos of him having sex with underage boys. However, Pussieldi is almost certainly the coach so cited in a 2007 article in the Broward-Palm Beach weekly New Times. See http://concussioninc.net/?p=8659.
In the police records released last Friday by the city attorney’s office, there are many redactions, some of them obviously lengthy. Except for a blanket claim of statutory exemptions under Florida public information law, Concussion Inc. has not received an explanation for the redactions, or an answer to our question as to whether any of them pertain to videotaping allegations. As we have done in past disputes over public records, we are consulting legal counsel to see if an appeal might be in order.
Despite all the known information about video allegations, one of the documents that the city did release in full shows Sergeant Richard Herbert of the Fort Lauderdale police offering only the narrowest dismissal of the assault case. Herbert’s March 17, 2004, email is riddled with one significant omission and one seriously misleading statement.
Here is the full text (we also uploaded the facsimile to http://muchnick.net/herbertemail.pdf):
“The ‘victim,’ who is an adult now, was interviewed by Det. Jennings and was unable to offer any [corroboration] of his allegations. Jeff [Jennings] tells me the suspect coach is no longer at the pool and is a coach overseas now. The case is going to be closed as Unfounded.”
The “victim” – note the sarcastic quotation marks – was indeed “an adult now” … 20 years old. But he was not an adult when Pussieldi possibly began taking Peeping Tom videos of him two to four years earlier. Indeed, the “victim” said Pussieldi had been his legal guardian.
Even more dubious is Sergeant Herbert’s characterization of “suspect coach” Pussieldi as “a coach overseas now.” Perhaps at the moment the police officer was composing his email, Pussieldi had taken flight to a coaching assignment in Kuwait or elsewhere abroad. But his resignation from the Fort Lauderdale team would have no effect on his nine additional years of youth coaching in Broward County for, among others, St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Pinecrest School, and later his own here-today-gone-tomorrow Davie Nadadores. It is not even clear if Pussieldi took an announced “leave of absence” from St. Thomas Aquinas of any appreciable length, or simply changed his title from head coach to co-head coach.
Were the Fort Lauderdale police and the city officials they were briefing not the least bit concerned about the future safety of young athletes in the area? And even if they mistakenly thought Pussieldi was permanently “abroad,” did they not care about the safety of youth athletes elsewhere?
We were unable to determine if Sergeant Herbert and Detective Jennings are still in Fort Lauderdale. We asked the current police chief, Franklin Adderley, for elaboration and comment. As this article was being published, we had not heard back.
Next here: Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation Department documents reveal crisis management and spin control in the wake of the 2004 Alex Pussieldi incident – but no regard for the deeper truth or the future safety of kids under his supervision. Complete links to Concussion Inc.’s Pussieldi investigation are at http://concussioninc.net/?p=8652.