by Irvin Muchnick
Who is Michael Henry, the director of legal affairs for the U.S. Center for SafeSport? And why did he — in violation of every consensus principle of how the beginning of sexual abuse investigations should be conducted — personally insert himself, under false pretenses, into Sarah Ehekircher’s first face-to-face meeting with her center investigator?
Most importantly: What does this whole scenario tell us about the state of oversight of Olympic sport bodies in the very season of the explosion of the Larry Nassar / USA Gymnastics molestation scandal and the passage by Congress of the Safe Sport Act?
These are questions no one other than Concussion Inc. is raising right now. But they are questions that must gain currency in House and Senate committee investigations and the media narrative.
At their heart — though I personally believe Ehekircher’s account of her own grooming and abuse at the hands of swimming coach Scott MacFarland — the answers to these questions have nothing to do with this case itself. They have to do, rather, with the fundamental illegitimacy of the SafeSport Center and the urgent need to avoid wasting additional precious years on the U.S. Olympic Committee’s further co-optation of the abuse issue for bland marketing and business-as-usual.
In 2010, in response to bad publicity, USA Swimming established a safe sport department and appointed Susan Woessner as its founding director. One of the very first investigations under Woessner’s watch involved Sean Hutchison, a coach now under civil and criminal siege for his grooming and abuse of Olympian Ariana Kukors, dating back to when she was underage. It took more than seven years for the public to learn that, prior to Woessner’s investigation, she had herself consorted with Hutchison. Woessner was forced to resign in disgrace.
Today we have similarly damning information on the fraudulence of the U.S. Center for Safe Sport — and this time the evidence is unfolding in real time.
As we reported two days ago, Ehekircher met last Thursday with her center investigator, Kathleen Smith. Mysteriously, the meeting was set up not at the center offices, but at a Denver law firm. Michael Henry tagged along with Smith, offering a phony explanation that he is not a “practicing” lawyer and was present only to take notes.
But Henry is no mere note-taker. He is the chief lawyer for the agency. And by his actions, he has immediately disqualified both himself and the center as frauds. There is no provision in the abuse complaint processing handbook for so sandbagging a complainant (and, to boot, audio-recording the session without her own lawyer present).
The website of the center lists no staff other than CEO Shellie Pfohl. She needs to tell Congress, without delay, what is going on with her goon director of legal affairs.
According to Henry’s LinkedIn page, he was hired in November of last year. His previous positions included lead Title IX investigator and then deputy Title IX coordinator at Texas Tech University. The public has a profound interest in learning exactly what in his training and experience justified ambushing a woman who had filed a complaint with the U.S. Center for SafeSport that includes, in part, an allegation that she got railroaded by a 2010 USA Swimming investigation and National Board of Review hearing.
Does Henry routinely so intervene in early stages of center investigations, or was this a special case — and why?
Does Henry even reside near the center’s Denver office? Or did he fly in from Texas last week for the express purpose of inflicting his dark and thuggish arts on Ehekircher?
Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado’s First Congressional District has not yet responded to our request to comment on the atrocity of this process for her constituent. DeGette is also on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which held hearings exactly one day before the SafeSport Center’s apparent preemptive and coordinated assault on the dignity and rights of an abuse accuser. According to observers of the hearing, DeGette’s questioning of Olympic and sport body leaders was desultory and uninspired.
That must change. DeGette and all of our political leaders must know that the U.S. Center for SafeSport is being managed with shocking malfeasance, corruption, incompetence. Choose your own qualifying adjective. By any description, the Olympic fixers cannot be allowed to get away with this again.
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