by Irvin Muchnick
If the March 19 projection of a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services official holds true – “approximately 30 days” until a response to Concussion Inc.’s Freedom of Information Act request for George Gibney’s files – then we may very soon have answers to some basic questions about the former Irish national swim team coach.
In the early 1990s, Gibney fled his job, and ultimately his home country entirely, in the face of a three-decade accumulation of dozens of sexual molestation allegations. The purpose of our request is to figure out how he (a) landed an American visa and (b) was allowed to stay here with a permanent resident green card.
Earlier in this series, we covered Gibney’s five-year stop in the Denver, Colorado, area. There his activities included coaching a USA Swimming-sanctioned team and becoming putative chairman of a philanthropic children’s eye clinic, which sent him, along with a local priest, on a mission to Peru. (Headline links to our entire series are at the bottom of this post.)
The bookends of Gibney’s American saga, however, are Florida. It was in that state that he raped an Irish swimmer on a training trip in 1991, three-plus years before he even took residence in this country. And it is in Florida where, well into his 60s, he lies low in ignominy, no doubt hoping the latest firestorm over his freedom and whereabouts will blow over.
The push to revisit the Gibney prosecution and revoke his haven in the U.S. is being spearheaded by a member of the Irish legislature, Maureen O’Sullivan. A fresh investigation by the Irish national police has gotten major play in the Irish and British media. But except for this site, there has been zero American coverage.
This is perhaps not surprising, in view of the still-prevailing blackout of federal investigations of USA Swimming’s homegrown abuse scandals. Last year ESPN reported that the International Swimming Hall of Fame withdrew its induction of USA Swimming chief Chuck Wielgus in the face of a public petition by many of the sport’s survivors of coach rape and cover-up – but not that this campaign to shame Wielgus was tied to ongoing probes by then-Congressman George Miller, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Government Accountability Office.
USA Today didn’t report the federal investigations, either. And unlike ESPN, USA Today didn’t even report the Wielgus “apology” that shortly followed his backing down from the Hall of Fame honor.
In turn, the weak American media scrutiny of a sport that gets little attention, except when Michael Phelps is either winning Olympic medals or getting arrested, has made it easy for House of Representative Democrats, who confront a Republican majority, to do no follow-through to date on retired Congressman Miller’s 2013-14 work.
The public records response of citizenship and immigration services, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, could change the inertia of the Gibney story on this side of the Atlantic.
You can read all about the crimes of George Gibney (and others) in the book Deep Deception: Ireland’s Swimming Scandals by Justine McCarthy, formerly of the Irish Independent and now with the Sunday Times of London. In 1993, Gibney was arrested on 27 counts of indecent assault and unlawful carnal knowledge. The following year, Gibney got the case thrown out of court on a technicality and moved to Scotland, and from there to his first main North American residence in Colorado.
The report of an independent complaint commission, published in 2000 on the recommendation of Irish High Court Justice Roderick Murphy, would find that Gibney committed many, many acts of abuse. One former swimmer told the commission that she was molested by him beginning in 1975, when she was 13; a priest advised her to confront her abuser, and when she did, the coach slapped her and called her a whore, and commenced having intercourse with her when she was 15.
Gibney was head coach of the Irish swim team at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He resigned the post in 1991 – the same year he raped a 17-year-old swimmer in a Tampa-area hotel while with their Dublin-based Trojan club. (Gibney’s successor as national coach was Derry O’Rourke – who himself, in 1998, would be convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison on 27 sexual abuse counts.)
Gibney’s Florida rape victim is now in and out of psychiatric hospitals, and unable to testify against him in the new round of Irish criminal investigations. Public interest in the cases had been revived by the death in Ireland of another Gibney victim over the last Christmas holiday season.
The last time Gibney had been so consistently in the headlines was the 2011 period, when the Irish swimming federation smeared the Florida victim in the media. The Olympic Council of Ireland applied to recoup from the woman €95,000 in legal fees after her claim against them lost in court due to the passage of time. Swim Ireland also stated, falsely, that Gibney had departed as national team coach immediately following the conclusion of the ’88 Olympics.
The swimming authority sought to intimidate reporter McCarthy, too. She says lawyer Giles Kennedy made false allegations about her to her editors in an attempt to derail her coverage. When McCarthy did an interview about the scandals on the RTE radio network, Kennedy called in to the studio with bombastic accusations, which wound up backfiring in public opinion.
By then, Gibney – having been run out of Colorado upon exposure of his Irish past (not to mention a sexual assault complaint to suburban Denver police that went nowhere), and bouncing around several states – was settled in Florida. In 2013 he fled his home in Orange City, about halfway between Orlando and Daytona Beach, after a campaign by native Irishman Evin Daly, CEO of Fort Lauderdale-based One Child International. George Gibney currently lives under the name “John Gibney” in a condo in the northern Orlando suburb of Altamonte Springs.
While the comings and goings of Gibney get sorted out, another set of questions swirls around Gibney’s fellow Irish swim coach Peter Banks. He coached in Florida in the late nineties and even became an American citizen so he could help guide his swimmer Brooke Bennett and others on this nation’s 2000 Sydney Olympics coaching staff. Then Banks left coaching to work for the American Swimming Coaches Association. From there, he wound up back with Swim Ireland, where his title is now High Performance Director.
Banks is not implicated in abuse anecdotes. But legitimate suspicions of his part in a two-continent cover-up will persist so long as both he and Swim Ireland remain opaque. One Irish journalist told me that a request to get Banks to discuss Gibney was rebuffed; another journalist, who did manage to speak to Banks about this subject, was told that he knew nothing about Gibney.
Blanket assertions of knowing nothing are problematic. For one thing, the Banks interlude in America surfaced in the course of lawsuits by American victims against USA Swimming. In a 2011 deposition in a “Jane Doe” case in California – by one of the many victims of now-imprisoned monster coach Andy King – former USA Swimming board president Dale Neuburger answered, “I believe he’s Irish,” when asked if he knew Banks’ nationality. Neuburger also said “I would not be surprised” to learn that Banks was now the Irish national coach. Neuburger saved what is perhaps his favorite answer in depositions, “I do not know,” for the question of whether he knew Banks’ employment history before moving to the U.S.
Bear in mind that this is the same Dale Neuburger who acted as though he’d barely heard of Mitch Ivey, a legendary American coach who also happened to be a college swimming contemporary. The long-time USA Swimming board member claimed not being familiar with a national television expose of Ivey’s sexual predation, which got him fired from the University of Florida.
At his consulting firm, Neuburger steered a site contract for an international open water swim competition to the too-warm waters of the Persian Gulf, where American Fran Crippen needlessly perished. Neuburger also brokers side work for coaches such as Alex Pussieldi, a Brazilian national who trafficked foreign athletes to Florida from the Middle East and Latin America, peeped on some of them in his house, and physically battered one who called him out on his abusive practices.
The American Swimming Coaches Association, a long-time fiefdom of executive director John Leonard, employed Banks between his U.S. and Irish coaching stints, and now has a close relationship with Swim Ireland as well as with USA Swimming. Three years ago, Leonard explained to us that ASCA is not “an organization that deals directly with children, nor is that part of our purpose in any way, shape, or form.” Over the years, ASCA has helped employ or fund Mitch Ivey and at least two other coaches who were under investigation for sexual misconduct and would later be banned: Ad’m Dusenbury and Dustin Perry.
So, yes, we believe that asking about the symmetry of Banks’ and Gibney’s American sojourns is a legitimate line of inquiry. We look forward to the answers to these questions – some of them, perhaps, in forthcoming federal documents.
CONCUSSION INC.’S GIBNEY SERIES: