by Irvin Muchnick
Simon Daniel “Danny” Chocron — a coach at the USA Swimming program at the Bolles prep school in Jacksonville, Florida, who in 2001 jumped $250,000 bail on 14 criminal charges of molestation of underage athletes in his charge — was sanctioned two months ago by the national swimming federation in his native Venezuela, where he had fled.
A Venezuelan swimming source tipped us to this recent action. A source inside Federación Venezolana de Deportes Acuáticos confirmed the sanction and released a copy of the disciplinary board’s September 15 ruling. The 23-page decision is viewable at http://muchnick.net/chocronsanction.pdf.
The federation source explained that the second-hand nature of the case presented against Chocron did not permit a lifetime ban under the evidentiary rules. In the words of the decision, the evidence consisted of “disciplinary file No 59251, opened by the USA Swimming FL vs Chocron, which was published by Irvin Muchnick [at] https://concussioninc.net/?p=11890.” Chocron challenged the prosecution material as “simple copies.”
The federation therefore opted for a one-year suspension from “any activity related to the sport.”
The federation source said this decision frames Chocron’s suspension around his inclusion on the USA Swimming banned coaches list, which was first published in 2010. There is not a direct finding that Chocron is guilty of sexual misconduct, but only that another national sport governing body permanently disqualified him on this basis. [Editor’s note 11/15/17, 8:15 a.m. PST: The original published article mistakenly said the USA Swimming banned coaches list was published in 2012, rather than 2010.]
Even so, the decision is expected to have lasting impact.
“Although this is not for life in the strict legal sense, it is for life to be a representative of the Venezuelan federation and of the regional associations of aquatics sports,” the federation source said by email. In the end, the Venezuelan authorities most wanted to ensure that Chocron could not escape accountability, as he had done when he jumped bail in the middle of the criminal prosecution in Florida.
Without this strict construction of the Chocron sanction, it likely would not have withstood an appeal in the Venezuelan legal system. In 2011 the Venezuelan Supreme Court had rejected the most recent effort to extradite Chocron to the U.S. to face charges, according to the Jamaica Observer. See http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Venezuela-rejects-extradition-of-alleged-paedophile.
The Venezuelan federation’s decision was shared with the international swimming body FINA (Fédération internationale de natation).
Concussion Inc. seeks to publish as quickly as possible a full English translation of the Federación Venezolana de Deportes Acuáticos ruling. Bilingual volunteers can contact me at [email protected]. In the meantime, here is a rundown of the Chocron story.
Chocron’s 68-page USA Swimming dossier was among thousands of pages that were withheld by USA Swimming from production in civil lawsuits against the organization by abuse victims in California. USA Swimming paid tens of thousands of dollars in court sanctions for defying discovery orders, before finally complying with a 2012 order by the California Supreme Court to file under seal these previously withheld documents.
The files then were subpoenaed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation office in Campbell, California, outside San Jose. Concussion Inc. acquired copies of these secret documents, which informed our dozens of articles about a generation’s worth of cover-ups by USA Swimming of complaints of abuse involving scores of coaches. Over the years, some of the accused coaches moved from program to program, state to state, and even country to country.
The Chocron case was compelling on several levels. USA Swimming’s failure to publish a list of banned coaches, until after the late USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus acquitted himself poorly in interviews for a pair of nationally televised investigative pieces in 2010, meant that both the swimming community and the general public remained vulnerable to these figures when they became part of programs outside USA Swimming jurisdiction. Those with continuing exposure to Chocron included the youth athletes of Venezuela.
A particularly disturbing additional aspect of the Chocron story was the role of Travis Tygart, USA Swimming’s lawyer for his National Board of Review hearing, which was conducted in absentia after Chocron fled the country. Tygart was an alumnus of the Bolles School, the same institution where Chocron coached, and Tygart has ignored multiple efforts to get him to explain the apparent conflict of interest and why he did not recuse himself from the administrative prosecution of Chocron. Today Tygart is the celebrated chief executive of the United States Olympic Committee’s U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
See https://concussioninc.net/?p=5993, https://concussioninc.net/?p=9419, https://concussioninc.net/?p=9424, https://concussioninc.net/?p=9424. The USA Swimming dossier on Chocron is at http://muchnick.net/chocron.pdf. A 2004 article about the near-capture of Chocron in Spain, from Jacksonville’s Times-Union, is at http://jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/072204/met_16161622.shtml#.WguXUFWnG00.
Danny Chocron was a 25K open water swimming champion who, at age 27, was on the staff of the Bolles Sharks club at the Bolles School aquatic center.
According to a March 2, 2001, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office arrest report, a 16-year-old male swimmer said Chocron “masturbated in front of him and … also encouraged him to masturbate in front of the suspect.” On another occasion, “the suspect showed him pornographic video tapes prior to them masturbating. He continued to explain that he has performed penile/oral intercourse on the suspect and that the suspect has reciprocated him by performing penile/oral intercourse on him.”
In a police interrogation, Chocron voluntarily admitted to these allegations.
A second police report five days later said Chocron also acknowledged “consensual penile/vaginal intercourse with an additional minor, female.” This 17-year-old subsequently would report having had sex with Chocron on multiple occasions at his apartment.
In addition to holding Chocron at Duval County jail on $250,000 bail, which would be met and earn his conditional release, police seized videotapes and computer equipment from his apartment.
A third victim then came forward and the total of felony counts reached 14.
Chocron missed his two scheduled court appearances and was never seen here again. Though he had surrendered his passport, he was able to make it back to Venezuela, with which the U.S. does not have an extradition treaty.