by Irvin Muchnick
The state attorney of Hillsborough County, Florida, has signaled at least theoretical openness about building a case against George Gibney for his rape — resulting in impregnation — of his 17-year-old swimmer during a 1991 training trip in Tampa, Florida.
The incident occurred at a moment when, depending on how you parse the accounts of Irish swimming officials, Gibney was also still the Irish national swim team head coach, or had already relinquished that position as dozens of allegations emerged of his sexual abuse of youth swimmers, dating all the way back to 1967.
A year after the Tampa trip and incident, Gibney would successfully apply for a U.S. visa. And two years after that, he moved here.
Documents disclosed by the federal government in my recently settled Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, Muchnick v. Department of Homeland Security, show that Gibney applied unsuccessfully for American citizenship in 2010 and indicate that he lied on his application about past criminal accusations — specifically, a 27-count indictment in Ireland for illicit carnal knowledge of minors. But based on a memorandum prepared by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the government concluded that none of this added up to grounds for removing Gibney from this country. He still resides here, most recently in Altamonte Springs, Florida.
A statement to Concussion Inc. by the office of the prosecutor in Florida is potentially helpful in efforts by Irish politician Maureen O’Sullivan to engage sympathetic sister legislators here, such as Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Senator Dianne Feinstein, in exploring the Gibney immigration scenario with a view toward facilitating the coordination of efforts by Irish and American law enforcement agencies.
A spokesperson for Hillsborough County state attorney Andrew H. Warren did not rule out the possibility that Gibney might still be prosecutable in the 1991 incident, which the victim detailed in a 2006 interview for Ireland’s RTÉ television network. We recently streamed that video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RyxMTx8Rnk.
In addition, in 2015 the London Sunday Times’ Justine McCarthy reported:
“A former swimmer has told gardai that a high-ranking official in the sport took her to England for an abortion after George Gibney, the national coach, raped her in 1991.
The woman has told officers conducting a review of the Gibney case that the official warned her not to tell anybody about the abortion.
She said Gibney raped her in a Florida hotel room during a training camp when she was 17. She discovered three months later that she was pregnant and she told the official, who is a professional person and knew Gibney.
She said the official obtained air travel tickets and accompanied her to England. She believes she was taken to an abortion clinic in London and remembers the official giving her pills that made her groggy during the trip.”
Rena J. Frazier, the Florida state attorney’s office chief of policy and communications, told me, “In general, there are statutes of limitations that apply to the prosecution of sexual battery cases based on the level of offense, except for capital offenses which have no time bar. The time limitation would be based on the statute in effect at the time of the offense. There are also exceptions and circumstances that can extend the statute of limitations. The circumstances of a specific case would need to be analyzed to determine whether its prosecution would be time barred.”
In 1998 an Irish government commission headed by Justice Roderick Murphy had concluded that the victims of Gibney, who never faced trial, “were vindicated” by the preponderance of evidence against him assembled by An Garda Síochána, the national police.
In the case of the 1991 Tampa rape, the evidence reportedly includes the victim’s affidavit to Irish police, part of whose contents is reported above. The 2006 television interview, in which the victim, who is not identified and whose face is obscured, also includes details of the alleged attack.
The next question — one that needs to be addressed by public officials in both countries — is how to make sure the Florida prosecutor acquires the affidavit. The state attorney’s Frazier said, “Receiving documents or evidence from another country would likely involve procedures set forth in applicable contracts or treaties between the nations at issue. Those documents would need to be analyzed to determine the specific procedure.”
The United States has a Mutual Legal Assistance agreement with the European Union, of which Ireland is a part. These protocols enable the establishment of “joint investigative teams.”
And a section of Ireland’s Mutual Legal Assistance Act of 2008, entitled “Spontaneous exchange of information,” specifically states:
“[T]he Director of Public Prosecutions, Commissioner of the Garda Síochána or Revenue Commissioners (in this section referred to as the ‘providing authority’) may, in accordance with the relevant international instrument and without receiving a request to that effect, communicate information to a competent authority in a designated state either relating to matters which might give rise to such a request or for the purpose of current criminal investigations or criminal proceedings or of initiating either of them.”
Ireland Teachta Dála O’Sullivan, who has spoken out in support of the two-continent campaign to seek Gibney’s extradition and trial, reached out previously to Congresswoman Speier and Senator Feinstein. The former told O’Sullivan that she was monitoring the situation and looking for ways to engage constructively.
In the wake of the new Gibney revelations via the FOIA settlement, O’Sullivan is expected to contact Speier and Feinstein again. Invoking mutual legal assistance to get information about the 1991 Tampa rape directly into the hands of the Hillsborough County state attorney should be high on the list of steps the legislators discuss.