by Irvin Muchnick
(Video of my January 25 interview on Ireland’s Off the Ball: http://www.offtheball.com/Other-Sports/How-did-George-Gibney-get-into-the-US-and-can-he-be-extradited-Irvin-Muchnick.)
For a long time I have held the view that the Irish victims of George Gibney — perhaps the most notorious at-large sex abuser in international sports history — along with their families and advocates, have done quite enough of the heavy lifting in the quest for long-delayed justice and closure.
Though it’s true that it was the warps in the Irish criminal justice system that initially let Gibney off the hook for his crimes there, and it was cronyism and corruption in high places there that smoothed his passage to the United States, there should be a proverbial statute of limitations on repeated dashed expectations. Somewhere along the way of the past quarter of a century, roaming unaccountably free across Colorado, Utah, California, Florida, and points in between, Gibney became, fundamentally, a problem for his pliant hosts, the Americans, to grasp and resolve.
My recently concluded Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security for Gibney’s immigration records establishes that friendly forces in the U.S. enabled the perpetuation of this heinous global sports cover-up. In all likelihood, it was the apparatchiks of the American Swimming Coaches Association who set up Gibney at the North Jeffco Swim Club in Arvada, Colorado, in the mid-1990s. And after Gibney, in an apparent panic, filed for naturalized citizenship some 16 years into his unsettled, multi-state alien residency here — and concealed from the application his 27-count criminal indictment in Ireland — it was the American government, in 2010, that curiously ruled, in conjunction with the rejection of that application, that he could not be deported.
Therefore, it is up to people of the U.S. to stand up for what is right: for what Judge Charles R. Breyer, in the final hearing of the FOIA case, aptly called a determination of whether our immigration system was a perversity, some sort of “haven for pedophiles.” No Irish authority can compel the American government to look hard and honorably at the peculiar loopholes Gibney exploited in order to become, in his senescence, ingrained in the community of Altamonte Springs, Florida, like a retired Treblinka gate guard. No bloc of Irish voters exists to pressure American politicians to probe the bizarre and contradictory moves documented in the Gibney file by, first, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and, second, U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS).
Anyway, this has been my position. But this week it changed.
My position changed because an independent and overarching event intervened. A sicko doctor at Michigan State University named Larry Nassar was convicted and sentenced in his molestations of well over 100 girls and young women under the aegis of USA Gymnastics. Heads are rolling at both institutions. In their wake is a unique, indeed historic, opportunity to join the campaign to extradite and try George Gibney with the newly risen awareness of the abuses of power, safety, and decency throughout the youth programs of Olympic sport bodies everywhere.
And that is why I appeal to those good people in Ireland to suck it up one more time and make their voices heard to those Americans with good instincts on this issue. They include Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congresswoman Jackie Speier, whose help Teachta Dála Maureen O’Sullivan last month already requested in the Gibney matter.
Such help must go beyond merely “raising questions” about immigration procedures. It also must facilitate the sharing of information collected by the Irish government (principally in reports of An Garda Síochána, the national police, and in the 1998 Murphy Inquiry into sexual abuse in Irish swimming) with appropriate American agencies (most especially the prosecutors’ offices in Florida, site of Gibney’s known violent crime on American soil).
When the last page of the last chapter is written on George Gibney, it will not be the story of an individual monster, any more than Larry Nassar’s was. It will be a web of epic failures of the money-driven tropisms of kid sports programs. They were supposed to be all about physical fitness and healthy competition. Instead, they became about gold medals and the runaway gravy train of the bureaucrats and obscenely well-heeled executives of the Olympic movement.
Coaches like to exhort their athletes: Give me one more lap. After bearing extensive psychological damage and heartache, some for as long as 50 years, those who were scarred by Gibney, and those who support them, need to go ’round one more time here. There are no guarantees that we’ll succeed. But there’s the certainly that we can’t unless we try.
At the bottom of this piece are headline links to some of the hundreds of articles Concussion Inc. has published about the Gibney cases. For those of you just tuning in, here are key data points:
In an elliptical conversation on a plane flight to an international competition, Irish Olympic swimmer Gary O’Toole is first tipped that Gibney had molested athletes beginning more than 20 years earlier. O’Toole starts designing mechanisms to canvass Irish swimmers and get the word out to sport authorities and police.
On a training trip in Tampa, Florida, Gibney rapes and impregnates a 17-year-old swimmer he had earlier violated in Holland. The girl would be drugged by an Irish swimming official and taken to England for a secret abortion.
Gibney successfully applies for a U.S. visa under the Donnelly diversity lottery program. He attaches to his application both an American job offer letter and a “certificate of character” from a Garda precinct. The certificate, representing that Gibney enjoyed a spotless record, was issued at a point when allegations of the coach’s abuse were already surfacing and multiplying.
Gibney is indicted on 27 counts of sex crimes against minors.
The Irish Supreme Court halts Gibney’s prosecution on the grounds that some of the charges date too far back to allow a fair trial. Broadsheet, an online Irish news outlet, would point out that one of the sitting justices, Susan Denham (later the chief justice), did not recuse herself from the case even though she is the sister of Gibney’s lawyer Patrick Gageby.
Gibney moves to the U.S. by way of Scotland.
Gibney leaves the Colorado swim club where he was a coach following an allegation of sexual misconduct. He is not charged with a crime, but the episode leads to the outing of his Irish past in the local community and sparks many years of nomadic American residence and employment outside the aquatics industry.
The Murphy Commission concludes, “In light of the charges arising out of the Garda investigation the complainants were vindicated.”
On the Irish television network RTÉ’s Prime Time, an investigative team interviews Gibney victims on camera (including the victim of the 1991 Florida rape); confronts Gibney in Calistoga, California; and quotes the local sheriff confirming that Gibney was on the radar of both the sheriff’s office and the FBI.
Irish journalist Justine McCarthy publishes the book Deep Deception: Ireland’s Swimming Scandals.
Irish-American Evin Daly, head of the Florida anti-abuse organization One Child International, publishes information on Gibney’s history and submits it to the federal government.
Gibney applies for citizenship.
In an internal memorandum, the government’s ICE agency memorializes the opinion that Gibney is not removable from the country.
After first warning Gibney that his citizenship application was defective in its answer to the question of whether he had ever been charged with or convicted of a crime, USCIS denies the application.