by Irvin Muchnick
Michael Averett, an assistant coach at Swim Fort Lauderdale, has denied to us that he told J.P. Cote, a Florida parent who accused Alex Pussieldi of inappropriately touching a young swimmer on deck at a meet in November 2012, that Averett had further information on past sexual misconduct by Pussieldi from when Pussieldi coached at Pine Crest School.
Cote, however, is sticking to his guns. He has a different version of what Avarett said to him. Long story short: I believe Cote.
Following through on this disagreement is important for the mission of showing how calling to account a monster like Pussieldi has the effect of taking community members out of their comfort zones. After all, if getting this dangerous person out of the range of youth athletes were easy, it wouldn’t have taken more than a decade to reach the current pass – with public records of the Pussieldi cover-up belatedly getting released, and with people jogging their memories and consciences.
What is undisputed is that Cote spoke with Averett after Cote filed complaints with the Plantation police and USA Swimming. Cote is clear that Averett approached him, not the other way around.
Averett (who didn’t respond to our two previous efforts to talk about all this with him) is, according to Cote, artificially “walking back” the significance of their conversation.
Averett emailed me: “A swimmer’s leg was being massaged by Alex on the deck and we all commented that it was crossing the line. However, I had only heard rumors of these other accusations amongst the swimming world.” Averett further insisted, “I am not a witness to any inside information…. If I had anything concrete to tell you, I would.”
In rejoinder, Cote says:
“I was approached by Michael Averett on Friday, March 9, 2013, during the Junior Olympics meet in Coral Springs. He said he wanted to thank me for reporting Pussieldi. He also confided in me that ‘my best friend was abused by Pussieldi while we were at Pine Crest.’
In February, USA Swimming safe sport coordinator Liz Hoendervoogt had wrapped up their investigation of my complaint against Pussieldi in Plantation. Ms. Hoendervoogt asked me to stay in touch with any further information. Accordingly, a few days after my conversation with Michael, I called her and reported the Averett conversation to her. The conversation was exactly as I characterized it. And there is third-party confirmation that I was doing exactly what USA Swimming says I should have been doing.”