by Irvin Muchnick
New Times is working on a story about abusive swim coach and international human trafficker Alex Pussieldi, according to Chuck Strouse, editor-in-chief of the Miami and Broward-Palm Beach editions of the weekly owned by the Village Voice Media chain.
This is an eagerly anticipated article, and not just because it will be the first sighting of local coverage of the Pussieldi investigation by Concussion Inc., now moving into its third month. New Times decision to weigh in is only natural, since a 2007 cover story there, by writer Ashley Harrell, was the first to report the existence of public records of allegations of Pussieldis sexual abuse, secret videotaping of athletes living in his house, and possession of child porn.
When pressed for what happened to New Times copy of the infamous packet, Strouse gave us a confused explanation. We made copies of the court file at the time of publication and kept them for a while. We aren’t sure where they ended up after Ashley Harrell left the paper years ago, but they probably ended up in the garbage, he emailed Concussion Inc.
With dubious pertinence, Strouse added, Unlike the court system, we are a newspaper and have no legal or ethical obligation to hold onto such files.
Characterizing the dossier as a court file seems inaccurate. In 2007 New Times called it a packet of materials [including] a sworn statement by [Diana] Nyad, police reports, and news stories [which] was mysteriously delivered to Fort Lauderdale city commissioners in January. Harrell went on to write that the packet paints an alarming picture of Nelson and some of the coaches he supervised:
In 2004, a swimmer in Nelson´s program told Fort Lauderdale police that one of the coaches had child pornography on his computer and that the coach secretly videotaped male swimmers who lived with him as the swimmers undressed in a bathroom. The swimmer claimed he found a video camera hidden in an air conditioning vent. Another swimmer told police the same coach touched him inappropriately. According to the packet, Dillon told Nelson about the boys´ accusations, but Nelson did not go to police. Instead, Dillon´s wife did. Fort Lauderdale police conducted an investigation, but it dead-ended when the coach denied the accusations. Nelson kept the coach on staff.
Tim Joyce and I believe that some of the materials in the packet correspond to documents we have so far obtained from public records requests to the City of Fort Lauderdale. Disputes remain over the extent of redactions in the documents released to us, and over the obvious existence of related documents, such as attachments referenced in the core documents. A Miami law firm with expertise in the Florida open records statute is informally advising us as we seek more answers from the city attorneys office and consider litigating our appeal. In addition, we have submitted additional requests to the state attorney for Floridas 17th Judicial District.
While we wait for what New Times is going to report about Pussieldi, managing editor Deirdra Funcheon has an online piece today about an ex-Boynton Beach cop, a fugitive from drug dealing charges, who is now living in Brazil.