by Irvin Muchnick
Sources in both Ireland and the United States have told Concussion Inc. that the Arvada (Colorado) police sergeant who investigated George Gibney in 1995 — after the police learned of Gibney’s allegations of sexual abuse in Ireland and of a possible incident of Gibney’s sexual misconduct at the North Jeffco swim club in this Denver suburb — herself was the mother of a swimmer at USA Swimming’s North Jeffco program.
The news that Sergeant Jo Ann Rzeppa either didn’t disclose this seeming conflict, or was directed to carry out her assignment to conduct an investigation at North Jeffco in full knowledge by the department of her connection to it, casts in a new light an ultimate police report that was already shrouded in mystery and apparent shortcomings.
Questions surrounding the actions or inactions of the Arvada police add to the body of information of how Gibney, whom we’ve described as the most notorious at-large sex criminal in the history of global sports, not only managed to gain entry to the U.S. via a 1992 visa, but also has remained in this country ever since — thanks in large part to curious official decisions that have had the clear effect of protecting him from on ongoing campaign to seek his extradition and trial on dozens of both old and newly emerging allegations of molestation and rape.
Asked for comment on the information about now-retired Sergeant Rzeppa, a spokesperson for Arvada acting police chief Edward Brady told Concussion Inc. late Monday that the department will respond “once we have completed our research…. We will get back to you as soon as we are able.”
At the bottom of this article is the nearly full text of our query to Chief Brady, consisting of eight questions.
In 2015, before I knew that Rzeppa was possibly conflicted in investigating a complaint at North Jeffco and shortly after she retired from the police force, I had attempted unsuccessfully to contact her via Facebook. Today I could not get through to Rzeppa via what I believe is a good phone number for her in the greater Denver area.
Three years ago the Arvada police refused our request to release Rzeppa’s report on Gibney, with the claim that reports of child sexual abuse are exempt from Colorado’s public records law. The summary provided by the police said Gibney “was suspected of possibly pinching (or snapping the swimsuit of) a North Jeffco swimmer. The APD investigated this allegation, but was unable to establish that a crime had occurred. Shortly thereafter, the APD learned that Mr. Gibney was no longer employed by North Jeffco. The APD had no other involvement in this matter.”
In light of the new information, and because the bulk of the report actually seemed to be an investigation of a tip about Gibney’s Irish past, and because references to any specific alleged victim could be readily redacted, I have asked Chief Brady to reconsider the records office’s 2015 decision not to release the full report.
Even without questions of a conflict of interest on the part of the investigating officer, the outcome of the 1995 Arvada investigation was alone enough to cast doubt on whether the local police and the swimming community leadership had taken any public safety initiative beyond simply reinforcing Gibney’s separation from the North Jeffco team. Gibney would remain in the Denver area for an additional five years; his activities through that period included ones granting him close access to children. They included serving on the board of directors of a state government-subsidized program for at-risk youth, and chairing a local Catholic church’s eye clinic mission to Peru.
The only reason Sergeant Rzeppa’s name even surfaced in connection with the 1995 Arvada investigation is that she was named — as a fellow officer who was consulted for background — in a second police report on Gibney, in 2000, in the neighboring suburb of Wheat Ridge.
Perhaps the most emphatic indictment of the Arvada police’s passivity and the possible motivations behind it, however, would come six years later, after an investigative team for Prime Time, a program on the Irish television network RTÉ, tracked Gibney to Calistoga, California, and interviewed John R. Robertson, operations chief for the Napa County sheriff’s office. Robertson (who is now the county sheriff) told Prime Time’s Clare Murphy that Gibney’s presence in the community “isn’t something we take lightly in the state of California or especially in the county of Napa.” Robertson added that the sheriff was adamant about “wanting to track these people” and share “information with the surrounding agencies.”
(Last November, Concussion Inc. uploaded video of the 2006 RTÉ report, which is viewable at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RyxMTx8Rnk&t=4s.)
The conclusion of the Arvada report summary, “No further action was taken,” leaves open whether even perfunctory tracking of Gibney and sharing of information with local Federal Bureau of Investigation field offices ever happened in Colorado. The findings in the settlement last December of my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security for Gibney’s immigration records included multiple references in the government’s production to the existence of law enforcement records in a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services file of more than 100 pages.
This entire sequence of events was set up by Gibney’s original 1994 hire at North Jeffco — two years after Gibney submitted an American coaching job offer letter with his successful application under a diversity lottery visa program of the period known as the “Donnelly visa.” The program had large set-asides for applications from Ireland.
Though the details of the job offer remained redacted under my FOIA settlement, U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer’s 2016 decision “(mostly) in Muchnick’s favor” fueled what the judge called my suspicion that “the American Swimming Coaches Association greased the wheels for Gibney’s relocation.”
Gibney’s likely body of crimes ranges from the 27 counts of his 1993 indictment in Ireland to Concussion Inc.’s report last year that a woman, now in her 40s, provided a credible and detailed account of her molestation by Gibney, when she was 11, at the swimming pool of an exclusive Dublin hotel.
These crimes include one on American soil: In 1991, Gibney is accused of raping and impregnating a teen swimmer on a training trip to Tampa, Florida. This incident was at a point when other abuse victims were already beginning to surface — causing Gibney, coach of the 1984 and 1988 Irish Olympic swim teams, to lose his grip on his aquatics empire.
In 1994, just before he emigrated to America by way of Scotland, Gibney’s criminal indictment was thrown out in a controversial statute-of-limitations ruling by the Irish Supreme Court. But in 1998 — and three years after the Colorado police investigated him — the Irish government’s Murphy Inquiry concluded that his many accusers “were vindicated” by the evidence assembled by the Garda, the national police.
At a hearing in my FOIA case, Judge Breyer expressed puzzlement over a 2010 decision by Immigration and Customs Enforcement that Gibney could not be deported even after his citizenship application was rejected. This rejection, moreover, was precisely because he’d lied on it in concealing his prior criminal indictment in Ireland. “We’re not a haven for pedophiles,” Breyer said.
In the wake of the FOIA disclosures, Irish legislator Maureen O’Sullivan has redoubled a campaign to get the cooperation of American politicians in seeking the sharing of information between Irish and American law enforcement agencies, and reconsideration of Gibney’s resident alien status in the U.S. Last week O’Sullivan told Concussion Inc. that she would be announcing new moves in the near future.
QUERY TO ARVADA POLICE CHIEF BRADY
[In 2015 the Arvada police issued] this statement:
“In late October, 1995, the APD was notified by a citizen that Mr. Gibney was employed by the North Jeffco Parks and Recreation District, and that he had previously been accused of child abuse in Ireland. The APD confirmed that Mr. Gibney had been charged with child sexual abuse in Ireland, but that he was not convicted on any of the charges. During its investigation, the APD learned that Mr. Gibney was suspected of possibly pinching (or snapping the swimsuit of) a North Jeffco swimmer. The APD investigated this allegation, but was unable to establish that a crime had occurred. Shortly thereafter, the APD learned that Mr. Gibney was no longer employed by North Jeffco. The APD had no other involvement in this matter.”
Your Sgt. Jo Ann Rzeppa was not named here. However, she was named in another report, in 2000, by the neighboring Wheat Ridge Police Department; the Wheat Ridge officer, Lila Cohen, consulted with Sergeant Rzeppa regarding the 1995 facts and incident. Ms. McGranahan told me that Sergeant Rzeppa was retired and that you could not forward my message to her seeking further information or comment.
That is the background of this query, which is based on new information, confirmed by multiple sources, that Sergeant Rzeppa had a son swimming with the North Jeffco team at the time of her 1995 investigation and report.[…]
1. Did Sergeant Rzeppa disclose her connection to the North Jeffco program when the department assigned her to investigate the Gibney situation and the allegation of sexual misconduct against him?
2. If Sergeant Rzeppa did not make such a disclosure, was her action ethically appropriate?
3. Did the Arvada Police Department assign Sergeant Rzeppa to this investigation knowing of her possible conflict?
4. If the Arvada Police Department did so assign Sergeant Rzeppa, was that ethically appropriate?
5. If the Arvada Police Department, on close reexamination, determines that its 1995 investigation and report were flawed on this basis, will you now revisit the matter? This question is raised because of the intense interest of observers in both Ireland and the United States in a campaign to probe the American immigration policies that have allowed Gibney to remain harbored in this country for nearly a quarter of a century, and to seek Gibney’s extradition back to Ireland and trial on dozens of counts of sex crimes against minors.
6. Did the Arvada Police Department share its 1995 report or associated information with other law enforcement or other government agencies, including the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services? This question is raised because Gibney would move on to (among other locales) Calistoga, California, and in 2006 an official of the sheriff’s office of Napa County was interviewed on camera for a segment of the program Prime Time on the RTE television network in Ireland. Operations chief (now sheriff) John R. Robertson said in that interview:
“[Gibney’s presence in the community] isn’t something we take lightly in the state of California or especially in the county of Napa. Our sheriff is very adamant about wanting to track these people…. We definitely hope that, if Mr. Gibney has committed these crimes, that he wouldn’t be a resident, or a citizen here of the United States. Until there is some information that is brought to our attention that leads us to believe that Mr. Gibney is guilty or suspected of improper behavior regarding sexual abuse or child abuse, then we are in a predicament that doesn’t allow us to enter him into Megan’s Law, it doesn’t allow us to investigate too much further. But we will share the information with the surrounding agencies. If we don’t turn anything up, we hope they can in Ireland.”
7. Will you now please forward this message and my request for comment to retired Sergeant Rzeppa, as well?
8. Finally, [the Arvada police records supervisor] told me in 2015 that your 1995 report could not be released on the grounds that it was a report of child sexual abuse and hence exempted by Colorado public records law. In light of the further information and concerns articulated above, I appeal to you to reverse this decision and make public the report. First, from Ms. McGranahn’s own description, the aspect of a report of child sexual abuse seems incidental at best to the whole of Sergeant Rzeppa’s report. Second, the name of the alleged victim and identifying details can be responsibly and efficiently redacted from those portions of the report dealing with a discrete incident of alleged child sexual abuse.