On the eve of the Olympics, there is a flurry of attention to the scandal of sex abuse, and the cover-up thereof, at USA Swimming. Yesterday MomsTEAM.com rescued from samizdat obscurity my long Yahoo Sports-commissioned-and-spiked article. Today The Washington Post reported allegations against a top coach, Rick Curl, who immediately announced he was taking a leave of absence from his program, Curl-Burke, one of the country’s largest and best-known.
An important next step, I believe, will be the intervention of federal prosecutors. I just asked B. Robert Allard, the San Jose attorney who is representing victims in some of the most explosive cases, whether his client Jancy Thompson has been in contact with any U.S. attorneys’ or Federal Bureau of Investigation offices.
Here’s what Allard told me:
“USA Swimming is well aware that the FBI is looking into Coach Norm Havercroft violating federal laws by transporting Jancy Thompson across state lines for the purpose of engaging in illegal sex acts with a minor.
I also now understand that the FBI is looking into USA Swimming’s actions that allowed Havercroft to continue coaching despite the fact that Havercroft and USSIC [United States Sports Insurance Company, the captive insurer for USA Swimming] paid off a minor swimmer who had filed a molestation civil lawsuit against Havercroft and a USA Swimming member club in 2001. Despite this knowledge, USA Swimming, through its Executive Director Chuck Wielgus, declared under penalty of perjury in 2010 that it had no prior knowledge of any claims against Havercroft.
Our law firm and representatives of Jancy Thompson have been in contact with both the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office on multiple occasions between January 2012 and July of 2012. We are cooperating fully with the requests we have received and will continue to provide any and all information requested by those agencies.”
In California Superior Court, Thompson is alleging years of molestation at the hands of Havercroft, as well as culpability on the part of USA Swimming.
Earlier, in the same jurisdiction, there was a lawsuit by “Jane Doe,” one of the many teen (or younger) abuse victims, across three decades, of sicko coach Andy King. When Jane Doe, with the support of her pastor, came forward, King was finally busted after a long coaching career in three different regions of California and in Washington State. (Now in his 60s, King is serving a 40-year prison term.) Weary of the psychological toll of fighting the hardball tactics of USA Swimming, which has been repeatedly sanctioned by California courts for failure to produce discovery documents, Jane Doe last year agreed to a sealed settlement.
The outline of the Havercroft story is told in Chapter 3 of my short ebook, PENN STATE IN THE POOL: The Cover-Up of the USA Swimming Youth Coach Sex Abuse Scandal, which was published in April.
Thompson filed her action in August 2010, four months after the 20/20 investigation aired on ABC. She says Havercroft, her coach at the West Valley Swim Club in Saratoga, California, abused her from 1998 to 2002, beginning when she was 15.
West Valley Swim Club existed in the first place because Havercroft founded it upon bolting from the Courtside Swim Club in Los Gatos after complaints of sexual predation were lodged in 1996-97. There, two sets of parents said Havercroft forbade parent chaperones on out-of-town trips, had swimmers stay overnight at his house, and had numerous reported instances of massaging or inappropriate touching of his athletes. Seven USA Swimming member coaches and three Pacific Swimming executives were aware of the subsequent investigation, across several years, which was conducted by the San Jose police.
Under USA Swimming’s rules, the criminal investigation of Havercroft should have been accompanied by an administrative probe by the organization’s National Board of Review. Yet USA Swimming, while acknowledging that it had a file on Havercroft, told the complaining parents that it could do nothing.
In 2001, following a Santa Clara County grand jury’s failure to indict Havercroft, one of his former Los Gatos swimmers sued him and the Saratoga club on claims that he molested her as a minor from 1993 through ’96. The case was discussed in depth in a memorandum to the board of directors of United States Sports Insurance Company, the Barbados-based “captive” reinsurance entity of USA Swimming. In my ebook, I reproduce that document. The author of the memo was Eric Peterson, vice president of Phoenix-based Risk Management Services, a consultant whose only clients are in the swimming industry.
According to a deposition in another case against USA Swimming, by a former San Jose police officer who had worked on the parallel criminal file, beginning in 1997, as a member of the Sexual Assault Unit’s child molest detail, the settlement in the first Havercroft-centered lawsuit was for $400,000.
Yet USA Swimming, from executive director Chuck Wielgus on down, has sworn in the Jancy Thompson case that it had no inklingof Havercroft’s abusive ways. You don’t need to be Eliot Ness in order to realize that the FBI would have plenty to chew on.
By email, I’ve requested comment from Wielgus, safe sport director Susan Woessner, and public relations director Karen Linhart. They haven’t answered a query of mine in months.