by Irvin Muchnick
As news emerges with some specifics on the work of federal agents investigating USA Swimming (see our weekend story), the City of Fort Lauderdale continues to fail to respond to Concussion Inc.’s request for more public records from its 2004 police and administrative investigations of Alex Pussieldi — and for less censorship of the documents so far provided.
Those records contain the best current information on Pussieldi’s crimes against children in Florida and the complicity in them of some of the most powerful educational institutions in the region — including the Pine Crest prep school, the Archidiocese of Miami’s St. Thomas Aquinas High School, and Nova Southeastern University.
Experts call Florida one of the country’s top open-records states. If our current impasse with the Fort Lauderdale police and city manager is not settled, options include the state attorney general’s mediation program, or litigation. In the course of my career, I have fought public information fights with government agencies in half a dozen states, and have yet to lose one. I haven’t spoken to anyone who seriously believes that if this one goes to the mat, the public interest in fuller disclosure of the material in possession of Fort Lauderdale and the state attorney for the Circuit Court’s 17th district will not prevail.
Once the records are published, Congressman George Miller, the Government Accountability Office, and the FBI will have the most devastating portrait yet of Pussieldi — a poster boy of global sports abuse who, having been driven back to his native Brazil, is now the television swimming commentator for the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Beginning in February, when colleague Tim Joyce and I decoded a heavily redacted 2005 USA Swimming investigator’s report, and continuing through this month, as we fully linked Pussieldi’s movements to Diana Nyad’s rape allegations against his former employer, Hall of Fame coach Jack Nelson, the story has come into focus. For more than a decade after essentially unrefuted sexual misconduct charges surfaced against Pussieldi, he continued to ferry underage swimmers from Central and South America and the Middle East to his personal homes and institutional housing arrangements, at a price we’re just beginning to tote up.
What the record already shows is that the swimming writer for the Tribune Company’s Sun-Sentinel, Sharon Robb, worked in concert with the manager of the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex, Stu Marvin, to cover up the Pussieldi story.
The record further shows that as late as 2012 — just a year before Florida Gold Coast Swimming finally suspended Pussieldi and co-club owner Tomas Victoria for hundreds of technical violations involving use of unattached swimmers — Miami Herald sports columnist Linda Robertson wrote a love letter to the Davie Nadadores operation, which she portrayed as a multicultural haven in a heartless world.
The best hope to break through the sound of crickets in South Florida is Village Voice Media’s alternative weekly, New Times, which appears to have embarked on a slow crab walk to a story largely of its own creation.
In its 2007 cover article on Diana Nyad’s allegations against Jack Nelson (in which the retired head of Pine Crest School sided with Nyad), New Times writer Ashley Harrell wrote of a dossier of incriminating materials leaked to Fort Lauderdale city commissioners and forwarded to the state’s attorney. Again, Joyce and I deduced that a significant swath of them dealt with Pussieldi.
New Times’ copies of the files “probably ended up in the garbage,” editor Chuck Strouse conceded to us last week.
The paper’s own Pussieldi story “will just be a couple days,” Strouse said on April 7. That was exactly 21 days ago.