by Irvin Muchnick
Concussion Inc. expects to publish in the near future new information on the movements in the United States of George Gibney. As I’ve been reporting for more than four years — reporting recently consolidated into the ebook The George Gibney Chronicles: What the Hunt For the Most Notorious At-Large Sex Criminal in the History of Global Sports Has Told Us About the Sports Establishments and Governments on Two Continents (https://amzn.to/2SmUl6c) — his murky quarter-century-long tour of our country, which is ongoing but may soon end, began in Colorado in the mid-1990s.
Some of the new information involves a timeline wrinkle. While I had been under the impression that Gibney left Colorado as early as 2001, it now seems possible that he was there several years longer. More shortly.
Today we set this up with the story of my aborted interview with the former Wheat Ridge, Colorado, police detective who investigated Gibney after an employer learned of his 27-count indictment for molesting minors. A controversial 1994 Irish Supreme Court ruling vacated the prosecution of Gibney, on technical grounds akin to a statute of limitations.
The 2000 Wheat Ridge investigation occurred five years after another suburban Denver police department, in neighboring Arvada, likewise had taken no known action as Gibney’s Irish past was being exposed in his community, and as a USA Swimming team for which he was coaching let him go — in part, apparently, because of a borderline allegation of sexual misconduct.
In 2015, I first published the police report from 15 years earlier by Wheat Ridge’s then Detective Lila Cohen. (There was at least one other Wheat Ridge report mentioning Gibney prior to this one, but the police department said it had been destroyed in a clean-out of old files.) The full text is reproduced again at the bottom of this article, with the name of the local informant redacted. I’ll continue to protect the name unless and until this person gets revealed elsewhere.
Cohen, the former detective — now a Denver area therapist named Lila Adams — hasn’t yet spoken with me in substance. This seems to be something of an Alphonse-and-Gaston act (“After you.” “No, after you.”). Adams claimed she needed the approval of her old boss at the Wheat Ridge police before she could talk to me. Or she sort of claimed as much; a variation was that she just wanted to notify Wheat Ridge PD as a courtesy. For his part, Adams’ former supervisor, division chief Dave Pickett, said she didn’t need his approval.
While this confusion dangled, perhaps willfully, Adams “postponed” a telephone conversation that she and I had set for this Tuesday, May 7. Instead of then simply agreeing to her earlier articulated backup time slot for today, Friday, May 10, she said she was unavailable until at least May 20.
I decided not to kill additional weeks pinning down Adams for this elusive voice interview. I thought it would better serve readers of this site — as well as the current federal investigation of Gibney — to submit questions to Adams by email, and I did so yesterday. On Monday I plan to publish the questions and whatever responses she gives to them.
Here’s the full background.
In February and March 2015, I twice asked Wheat Ridge PD to put me in touch with Lila Cohen.
On March 25, 2015, Pickett, whose title at that time was commander of the investigations bureau, emailed me: “I passed along your contact information to Detective Cohen and advised her that you wanted to speak with her. She did not indicate to me one way or the other regarding if she intended to contact you. I will forward your email to her so that she again has your contact information.”
Fast-forward to December 2017, when my Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, for records and information from Gibney’s immigration file, settled at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In the settlement, the government released papers showing that in 2010 Gibney had unsuccessfully applied for U.S. citizenship.
The apparent reason for the denial was that he had lied on the application by concealing his indictment in Ireland. The application form clearly required full explanation and documentation of all arrests and indictments, in addition to convictions. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) gave Gibney a second chance to fill out his application faithfully. Evidently, he whiffed again.
The rationale of the requirement to disclose arrests and indictments, of course, is that naturalized citizenship is not a right for a hitherto foreign national. It is a privilege. The bar for whether someone not born in America can be admitted to the ranks of voting and other benefits is higher than the standard for whether he can avoid prison. Gibney’s new country had a clear legal and moral interest in weighing his full background.
Yet in a corresponding move that the senior U.S. District Court judge in my FOIA case, Charles R. Breyer, called into question, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told USCIS that Gibney was not “removable” from the country after being denied citizenship — because he had not been convicted of a crime. ICE leaned into the counterintuitive logic that the very grounds for his not being allowed to become a citizen did not affect the status of his permanent alien residency status — his green card.
The judge noted that in his experience, falsifying citizenship and immigration information had administrative consequences, and famously added, “We’re not a haven for pedophiles.”
The same puzzler seems to have driven the inaction of the Arvada and Wheat Ridge police in the mid-1990s and early 2000s. Wheat Ridge’s Commander Pickett summarized Detective Cohen’s report this way: “Because there were no allegations regarding any crime in this jurisdiction, no investigation outside of notification was done.” (Notification to whom?)
A perusal of USCIS Form I-485, “Instructions for Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status,” shows that the same disclosure requirements for citizenship also pertain to original green card applications and their renewals. “You must submit certified police and court records for any criminal charges, arrests, or convictions you may have,” the instructions state, and go on to tick off — and close off — possible loopholes: “If you were EVER arrested or detained by a law enforcement officer for any reason anywhere in the world, including the United States, and no criminal charges were filed,[…] If you were EVER charged for any reason (even if you were not arrested) anywhere in the world,[…]” (The bold type is in the original.)
In 2006 an official with the sheriff’s department of Napa County, California, where Gibney was by then living, spoke with Ireland’s national television network, RTÉ, about efforts to monitor him. John R. Robertson (who today is the sheriff) said his office was in contact and sharing information with the local Federal Bureau of Investigation field office.
I don’t think Napa gets off the hook here, either: Robertson addressed only the limitations of “Megan’s Law,” the collection of federal and state legislation guiding sex offender registries and public access to their information; he did not appear to be referring to coordination of local and federal law enforcement and administrative agencies’ work to isolate sub-criminal violations that could have green card consequences. People get deported all the time for far less than lying on their green card applications. Under President Trump, ICE established an office dedicated to busting those who have lied on their citizenship applications.
For the two suburban Denver police agencies, the key open questions are clearly, first, did they even communicate about Gibney with their own regional FBI field offices or other federal authorities?; and second, what was the nature of those communications and what was their upshot?
Did they do anything to try to get Gibney sent back to Ireland? Or did they just “keep an eye on” him? If they indeed tried to make a case for deportation but failed, who in the bureaucratic chain blocked such a basic initiative of public safety and immigration rules enforcement?
Last month I learned from a source on the ground that Lila Adams, née Cohen, was about to be interviewed by an Irish-Anglo broadcast team. I already knew of the existence of this production, a projected multi-part review of the Gibney saga. I knew because its producers and researchers, aware that my work on the subject is definitive, keep bugging me to donate reporting and consulting services. This is another topic for another day. In a nutshell, I wish that project well but am skeptical that its contemplated spinning of soundbites and scenery already covered in the Irish media will move the needle of the Gibney extradition campaign.
At the same time I found out Adams’ current name, I found out her current occupation. I looked her up and contacted her. She emailed back, “I have had several inquiries about this case in the past months. I was recently contacted by my former lieutenant at the Wheat Ridge Police Department and received permission to talk about this case.”
Somewhat contradicting herself, Adams went on to say, “I am happy to talk to you; however, I do want to reach out to the Wheat Ridge Police Department as a courtesy since I was employed there and have great respect for my former employer.” Whatever.
Adams wanted to know whether a phone interview three days later, at 10 a.m. on May 7, would work. I said yes.
However, Adams did not respond to my two follow-up re-confirmation emails. When the morning of the 7th rolled around, she emailed, “I did not hear back from my lieutenant yet which is unusual. I will let you know if he contacts me this morning but it looks like I will need to postpone.”
I contacted Lieutenant Pickett, whose title now is division chief, and Dan Brennan, the Wheat Ridge police chief. Pickett said in his email reply, “Of course we appreciate the courtesy Ms. Adams has afforded myself and the department in advising us regarding any potential interview, [but] we have no intention or authority to block such.”
I suppose Adams will eventually answer the questions I posed. Or not. Her peculiar protocols are not the guts of the story. What’s in the foreground is an understanding of what unfolded in Arvada and Wheat Ridge, the first stops of Gibney’s American odyssey: why he roamed free in Greater Denver while law enforcement there knew full well that he was a creep and a half, and worse, had gotten into the U.S. on false pretenses; and why the cops have provided no evidence that they utilized any creative tools while simply waiting for him to become the problem of his next community and his next state.
“I will tell you that I was worried about Mr. Gibney’s contact with children and spent a lot of time and effort to make sure children who lived in my city and any children I could protect were safe,” Adams told me in an early email. “I have spent my career trying to protect children from offenders like Mr. Gibney. I will also say that it appears that you have everything I recall and I did try to make my report detailed and complete in case in was needed in the future. I currently work with crime victims, primarily children, to assist in the healing process so they can process their trauma and obtain safety skills to prevent future victimization.”
But the questions in 2019 are not whether Lila Adams is a nice person. If it would help her help all of us get to the truth about Gibney, I would be happy to stipulate that she is a nice person who wants the best for kids, and chose police and then counseling work for the right reasons.
For the moment, we all want to know some things with a little more meat on the bone:
Was whatever Adams and Wheat Ridge did about Gibney in 2000 and after well thought out?
Was it appropriate under the known circumstances?
Was it effective? (And effective on whose terms? I don’t mean effective in the sense that it checked the bare minimum boxes while relieving Wheat Ridge of embarrassing publicity that it was harboring the most notorious at-large sex criminal in the history of global sports.)
Finally: Are the erstwhile Detective Lila Cohen and others in law enforcement accountable for their piece of the long tail of the international George Gibney agony and outrage?
[POLICE REPORT BY DETECTIVE LILA COHEN]
On September 20, 2000, Sergeant David Goracke received a phone call from xxxxx, reference some strong information concerning an alleged pedophile living in Wheat Ridge. Sergeant Goracke forwarded the information to me.
I called xxxxx back and learned that she was an employer to a man named George Gibney. She advised that while she was on the internet she tripped onto some information about George Gibney that was very concerning to her and she thought I should know about. xxxxx advised that George Gibney used to be an Olympic Swim Coach in Ireland but was arrested or charged with sexually assaulting children there and then came to the United States. xxxxx said she used to be a swim coach as well and this is how she got to know George better.
xxxxx said she fired George Gibney the day prior to this call because he lied to her. She said he was working as a temporary employee for her company and then, after getting to know George, she hired him full time. She said one of the things they had in common is that they were both swim coaches for children.
xxxxx advised that she knew that Gibney went to Peru on behalf of an eye clinic for children. She said Gibney works with children in his parish and is a volunteer in Golden at a Youth Detention Center. xxxxx further advised that the internet articles she read said he also coached the North Jeffco Swim Club in Colorado. xxxxx said the articles she found on the internet were on Google under Gibney. She said she found further information in Irish Times.com and Ireland.com. She said she thought Gibney was the director of an Advisory Board for the Youth Department of Corrections. She said he is also the Chairman of the International Peru Eye Clinic Foundation.
xxxxx advised that Gibney and his wife adopted an African girl who is now on the Irish Olympic Swim Team and is currently competing in the Olympics.[…] xxxxx said she knows that George has a brother who is a professor at Trinity College.
I told xxxxx that I had been sent articles last year concerning Gibney and concerns that he lived in our city at that time. I told her that he did not have to register as a sex offender and that he had not committed any crimes here that I knew of. I did tell her that I was very concerned that Gibney was working with children, especially children with issues such as being in detention or having eye problems. I further advised her that I was concerned that Gibney may travel with children in his parish to Peru. xxxxx did not know the church Gibney belonged to. She agreed to send me the information she located on the internet.
I attempted to find an advisory board through the Youth Department of Corrections but it is a State run agency and therefore does not have one. I called Lookout Mountain and was told the same. I know the members on the board for the Jefferson County Juvenile Assessment Center and Gibney is not on that. I called Arvada Police Department concerning the North Jeffco Swim Club and received a call back from Sergeant Jo Ann Rzeppa advising that she had investigated those allegations in 1995 and did not learn of any victims.
xxxxx advised that Gibney had access to a computer at work and when he was fired he was escorted to the door and did not have access to the computer. She asked if I wanted to come out and have someone look at it. I told her that I would have to send it to CBI [Colorado Bureau of Investigation] and she would be without it for several months as it would take low priority because a crime did not exist at this time. xxxxx said she could be cooperative but she could not be without a computer for that long. She said she would have her computer expert check it and get back to me.
xxxxx told me that the place Gibney volunteers with young people is at the Lab School at Lookout Mountain. She said Bill Weiner is in charge of that and gave me his phone number, [….] She said Gibney is on the board for the Metropolitan State College Lab School at Lookout Mountain. On October 5, 2000, I called and spoke with Bill Weiner who advised that George Gibney is in fact on that board. I told him that Gibney had not committed a crime here that I knew of but had some information he should be aware of if Gibney was having contact with kids. He provided me his address and I mailed him a copy of the information given to me by xxxxx.
Nothing further to report at this time.