by Irvin Muchnick and Tim Joyce
The Fort Lauderdale detective who dismissed a swimmers 2004 complaint of a physical assault by coach Alex Pussieldi as an unfounded allegation of an adult against a coach who is overseas now had also been told, in detail by multiple witnesses, of the discovery of a secret videotaping system in the house where Pussieldi boarded some of his foreign athletes.
Local sources have confirmed this development to Concussion Inc. The new facts about the Fort Lauderdale police investigation of Pussieldi emerge as these reporters await the release of a report by the Special Victims Unit whose existence a police spokesperson acknowledged only recently. The Special Victims Units jurisdiction includes sex crimes. The police records supervisor told us on March 31 that the report was being retrieved from storage and would be sent to us.
It is not clear why the Special Victims Unit report was excluded from the original production of Pussieldi investigation documents made available to Concussion Inc. in response to our request under the Florida public information statute.
We also are working with legal counsel to determine the proper course for appealing some of the redactions in the documents already provided. We believe that while state public records law allows exemptions of certain information related to sex crime investigations, those exemptions do not cover Fort Lauderdales broadly claimed redactions of report narrative (as opposed to simple blacking out names and other identifying personal details).
The redactions dispute is key because they almost certainly involve sexual misconduct allegations against Pussieldi. We already have published a heavily redacted 2005 USA Swimming report excerpt showing that the Mexican swimmer who lodged a complaint against Pussieldi said the background of their physical fight on deck at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex was the swimmers discovery of the coachs Peeping Tom videos of him.
In addition, a 2007 article in the New Times weekly of Broward and Palm Beach Counties largely about swimming legend Diana Nyads allegations of having been raped in her early teens by Hall of Fame coach Jack Nelson, who also was Pussieldis boss at the Fort Lauderdale Swim Team reported that city commissioners early that year received a leaked packet of wide-ranging misconduct information. The packet included not just the secret videotaping allegations, but also charges that the coach in question had sex with underage boys.
(It is not yet known if the explicit allegations of pedophile acts in addition to the Peeping Tom videotaping information are in USA Swimmings files. The heavily redacted excerpt of the December 2004 interview of the Mexican swimmer by a USA Swimming investigator was obtained by us in court records in discovery of a civil lawsuit against the organization in another state.)
Against that backdrop, heres the newest from our sources:
A person in the Broward County swimming community went to Fort Lauderdale police after the girlfriend of another swimmer told her parents, who in turn confronted Coach Nelson, that the swimmer and the girlfriend came upon a spy camera hidden on one of the trophies in his bedroom. Nelson did not fire Pussieldi, but told the parents that Pussieldi was “getting help for his problem.” This aligns with the information given by the Mexican swimmer to the USA Swimming investigator — except that the Mexican said he discovered an apparent hidden camera system inside a drilled hole in the wall of his bathroom.
The source believed the discovery of the spy camera in one of the bedrooms was in the summer of 2003. It was definitely prior to the discovery of the bathroom drilling.
Perhaps the most important aspect of our sources recollection was that the source met with Detective Jennings of the Special Victims Unit.
These reporters had not been aware that Detective Jeff Jennings was attached to the Special Victims Unit. As we reported last month, Sergeant Richard Herbert of the Fort Lauderdale police emailed to various city officials on March 17, 2004 :
The victim, who is an adult now, was interviewed by Det. Jennings and was unable to offer any [corroboration] of his allegations. Jeff [Jennings] tells me the suspect coach is no longer at the pool and is a coach overseas now. The case is going to be closed as Unfounded.
Jennings, through Herbert, failed to add that the victim was not an adult at the time of the alleged secret videotaping, and that he told police that Pussieldi was his legal guardian. Jennings/Herbert also mischaracterized Pussieldi as a coach overseas. In fact, he would retain numerous swim coach positions in Broward County at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Pine Crest School , and later his own Davie Nadadores club out of the Nova Southeastern University campus for more than nine additional years.
While we await the Special Victims Unit report, Detective DeAnna Greenlaw of Fort Lauderdale police media relations will say only, Our agency cannot comment on a statement made by a former employee in an email.