What Next Week’s Florida Court Hearing on Fort Lauderdale’s Public Records on Abusive USA Swimming Coach Alex Pussieldi Still Won’t Cover

Why Next Week’s Court Hearing on City of Fort Lauderdale’s Deletions of Public Records on Alex Pussieldi Matters For the Federal Investigations of USA Swimming
June 26, 2014
Florida Judge Is Conducting ‘In Camera’ Review of City of Fort Lauderdale’s Redactions of Documents on USA Swimming’s Alex Pussieldi
June 30, 2014

by Irvin Muchnick


No preview of next Monday’s Florida court hearing on our claim that the City of Fort Lauderdale is illegally withholding public records on Alex Pussieldi – including the article yesterday at this site – is complete without reemphasizing how many additional Pussieldi files would not be covered by even the most favorable ruling from Broward County Circuit Court Judge John B. Bowman.

Let’s list some of them.


USA Swimming’s investigations

In 2005, the swimming’s National Board of Review ordered Pussieldi suspended for three months – whatever that means – on the allegation that he physically struck Mexican swimmer Roberto Cabrera Paredes on the deck of the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex. (Pussieldi was running a practice for the Fort Lauderdale Swim Team, whose head coach and owner, Hall of Famer Jack Nelson, is accused of raping his swimmer Diana Nyad in her early teens.)

In response to a subpoena in a 2011 civil lawsuit by another USA Swimming abuse victim in another part of the country, one of the organization’s former private investigators, Dirk Taitt, produced a heavily redacted eight-page excerpt of his ’05 Pussieldi investigation. Where’s the rest? Taitt acknowledged that the coach identified in his deposition as “A.P.” also was accused of “improper videotaping” of this underage swimmer who lived with him. The swimmer told Fort Lauderdale police that Pussieldi was his legal guardian.

After Concussion Inc. blew up the Pussieldi cover-up earlier this year, Susan Woessner, USA Swimming’s official director of safe sport — and unofficial director of CYA — set out to “right that wrong” (as she explained in an email to a contemporary Pussieldi complainant). Where are those records and what do they show, other than that a new USA Swimming investigator or investigators have been summoned to make a few phone calls to Florida?


FBI investigation of Pussieldi associate Roberto Caragol

Caragol and Pussieldi coached together at Fort Lauderdale’s tony Pinecrest School. (That is also where Jack Nelson, years ago, almost surely molested Diana Nyad.) They co-directed the school’s housing services for visiting swimmers.

In 2008 a multi-agency task force, led by the North Miami office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, busted Caragol for Internet child porn distribution. Caragol also admitted sexually preying on underage female and male swimmers under his supervision. He is now in federal prison.

A reliable federal source confirmed to Concussion Inc. that the FBI also investigated Pussieldi during this period.

What kept the FBI from connecting the dots? Some of the answers to this question might be found in the prosecution file on Caragol. Since that is a closed case, there is no justification for claiming it is not a public record. Before formally filing a Freedom of Information Act Request, however, I have been seeking the support of a prominent elected official, so that the request doesn’t get buried or delayed in the federal bureaucracy. So far Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the congresswoman from Pussieldi’s district in South Florida, has been solicited. So have my own U.S. senators from California, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. (The former is on the Senate Commerce Committee, which is currently being lobbied in an anonymous, dying-on-the-vine petition that is getting zero public support from the Women’s Sports Foundation.) None has responded.

Concussion Inc. was advised not to cite the weak performance of purported allies in the fight to eliminate amateur sports sex abuse. But guess what? We report, analyze, and comment. We don’t pander.


Bob Nichols’ dossier

Fort Lauderdale lawyer Nichols, who is close to Nyad, likely is the person who in 2007 leaked a “packet” of incriminating materials about Nelson, Pussieldi, and Cecil Russell to the Fort Lauderdale City Commission, according to South Florida’s New Times. This led to a new flurry of activity by the Fort Lauderdale police and a referral to the state attorney. (Russell – a coach who had fled sexual misconduct charges in his native Canada and is now back coaching there – worked for the Fort Lauderdale Swim Team, too. The dossier showed that he was an accessory to drug trafficking and murder.)

In February, Nichols told us:


“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.”


But four months later, Nichols still hasn’t come through with the promised material.

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick