by Irvin Muchnick
As noted earlier, a Broward County judge has set a June 30 hearing in my lawsuit against the City of Fort Lauderdale seeking to eliminate some of the redactions in released public documents on abusive swimming coach Alex Pussieldi.
That is just one strand of a tangled weave of cover-up both by local police and municipal officials and by USA Swimming in Colorado Springs. With the clamor for Congressional involvement following the successful campaign by swimming coach sexual abuse victims to keep USA Swimming chief executive Chuck Wielgus out of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, Capitol Hill investigations may also wind up being the last and best resort for uncovering the full truth about how Pussieldi stayed in business for nearly a decade after the 2004 incident in which he assaulted a swimmer on the pool deck at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex.
In 2007, the New Times weekly in South Florida reported that an anonymous leaker had given to Fort Lauderdale city commissioners a packet of local police and state attorney’s records of investigations of swimming coaches — Pussieldi among them. New Times says it no longer has the documents, which were likely discarded in the course of an office move.
Speculation on the source of the leaker has focused on a Fort Lauderdale lawyer named Bob Nichols. Since Nichols has been promising, for several months, to provide Concussion Inc. with documents – presumably some of the same ones in the 2007 packet – but continues to put us off with increasingly implausible excuses, it is time to name him and exactly what he told us.
On February 26, Nichols emailed, “I’d be glad to help. It [swim coach abuse] appears to be a very wide-spread problem that has existed for many decades. I also led the investigation against Jack Nelson, who sexually abused numerous well-known swimmers both in high school and thereafter.”
In a second email that day, Nichols added, “I probably still have a copy of the packet that had made it’s way to the Commission. … As far as Pussieldi, I assume you already know about the naked picture of him with the team and the ties with international drug trafficking and the murders. Molesting swimmers was just one of many problems he had.”
Another source in the swimming community there says there were photos of the bruising on the neck of swimmer Roberto Cabrera Paredes where Pussieldi choked him with a towel during their altercation.
My litigation against the city has a chance of rectifying overly extensive redactions in the records we have acquired and published. What will remain problematic is the city’s contention that no further relevant documents exist. Perhaps these documents were thrown away over the years, even improperly so, but that is outside the scope of the current public records dispute.
Similarly, the state attorney’s office today responded to my recent parallel request for Pussieldi records by stating that such records are no longer in the possession of that office. The state attorney said the record was destroyed in accordance with Section 119.02(2)(d) of the Florida statute. That provision empowers the Department of State’s Library and Information Services Division to guide state agencies establishing schedules for retaining records and disposing of them.
Only the United States Congress, with subpoena power to summon witnesses as part of an investigation of USA Swimming and local communities’ cover-ups of coach sexual abuse, in various settings and factual circumstances, is fully equipped to get to the stinking bottom of the Alex Pussieldi story.