by Irvin Muchnick and Tim Joyce
While we have been reporting on numerous explosions, and precursors to explosions, in the thoroughly corrupt world of swimming, we don’t want to neglect the unconscionably unjust recent result of the Jancy Thompson case in California against rapist coach Norm Havercroft and USA Swimming.
The Havercroft file was the basis of Chapter 3 of Muchnick’s ebook last year, PENN STATE IN THE POOL: The Cover-Up of the Youth Coach Sex Abuse Scandal (info at https://concussioninc.net/?page_id=5578; Amazon Kindle orders at http://amzn.to/If3OFQ).
One of the outcomes of this case, in Santa Clara Superior Court, was very good: USA Swimming, in trying to stonewall the plaintiff’s discovery demands (after years of thumbing its nose at California court sanctions for this illegal tactic), got smacked down by the California Supreme Court and ordered to release thousands of pages of documents.
But Thompson v. Havercroft also had one devastatingly negative outcome: the trial judge dismissed it last week on technical statute of limitations grounds. Before you listen to USA Swimming and its mouthpieces at the Bryan Cave law firm crow about their “victory,” understand a few points:
* Thompson was clearly, and extensively, molested by Havercroft.
* USA Swimming clearly knew about it, did nothing about it, covered it up, and lied about it.
* Thompson missed the statute deadline by two years. However, in a world where the law was fair, the clock would have been stopped — in legal parlance, “tolled” — by the evidence that she suffered from disassociation disorder as a result of her trauma and was therefore unable to come forward earlier.
This last point is at the heart of reform efforts in other states (currently in New York State, for example, where child abuse victims are gathering in Albany to pressure state legislators). A similar change in the law in California will be the only just legacy of this horrible, horrible story.
Thompson’s attorney B. Robert Allard said the following, and he is dead right:
“Since USA Swimming has absolutely no defense to the fact that it had prior knowledge of Havercroft and then went to great efforts to cover it up, its only saving grace is to rely on these artificial time limitation periods. Instead of owning up to what it did to a sex abuse victim, USA Swimming would rather spend millions on lawyer fees to take advantage of procedural loopholes so that it can get away with fraud and perjury, not to mention predators getting away with sexual molestation.”
Please read this series, in intermittent installments, as we review the facts of what happened to this girl athlete; how our national sport governing body pulled out all stops to impede every effort to make her whole; and finally what the citizens of California can do about this with pending new state legislation.