by Irvin Muchnick
When it comes to protecting sex abusers, rather than the kids harmed by sex abusers, USA Swimming and the Catholic Church are two of the biggest and friendliest fish in the ocean.
Last year both groups were instrumental in persuading California Governor Jerry Brown, an ex-seminarian, to veto SB 131, which would have reformed the state statute of limitations on civil lawsuits of certain categories of dormant abuse cases, after the bill was passed by the legislature despite hundreds of thousands of dollars expended to high-powered lobbyists. Sponsors are in the middle of tweaking and reintroducing the legislation.
But it’s in the Florida case of mystery-man Brazilian coach Alex Pussieldi – intercontinental trafficker of young athletes and accused abuser of some of them and of other underage boys – that the partnership between swimming and the church comes to its fullest, on-the-ground, hands-on fruition.
As we’ve reported, Pussieldi resigned from the staff of the powerhouse Fort Lauderdale Swim Team in 2004 after a Mexican swimmer, as well as supportive witnesses, told police Pussieldi slugged and choked him at a practice at the complex which also houses the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
In a secret investigation that concluded with zero sanctions, USA Swimming also developed evidence that Pussieldi had maintained sick clandestine bathroom videotapes of swimmers who lived with him. A 2007 dossier sent to the Fort Lauderdale City Commission and local police added information about sex videos of Pussieldi with other underage boys.
Yet Pussieldi merely took a “leave of absence” from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in 2004, and he soon resumed his successful run there, which was punctuated with state high school swimming championships.
On February 19, we put in an inquiry about Pussieldi to Tina Jones, principal of St. Thomas Aquinas. Silence.
On February 23, we followed up with the school’s supervising principal, Monsignor Vincent T. Kelly. Silence.
On February 26, we queried Archbishop Thomas Wenski, whose Archdiocese of Miami also encompasses Fort Lauderdale and Broward County. Silence.
Subsequently, we’ve left several messages for archdiocese spokespersons Mary Ross Agosta and Juan A. Di Prado. Silence.
While the rah-rah major media fiddle and fumble, there is more happening with the USA Swimming youth coach sex abuse scandals than Tim Joyce and I currently are at liberty to write about. There’s movement on Capitol Hill. We are sharing new information with investigators for police agencies in two states. Settlement talks are accelerating in lawsuits by victims. And in Colorado Springs, swimming CEO Chuck Wielgus, safe sport director Susan Woessner, and other Olympic apparatchiks are flailing.
Complete links to Concussion Inc.’s Pussieldi investigation are at https://concussioninc.net/?p=8652.