by Irvin Muchnick
Activists for the issue of systematic sexual abuse and cover-up in USA Swimming continue to hope that natural leaders such as California Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who have helped drive public awareness of rape in the military, will also speak up on the twin pending questions concerning George Gibney.
The first of those questions is Irish Parliament member Maureen O’Sullivan’s call for Gibney’s extradition from Florida, where he lives, at age 63, in plain sight, under the name “John Gibney” (John is his middle name).
The other is Concussion Inc.’s Freedom of Information Act application for the immigration files of an Irish national – indeed, one-time national swim team head coach – who made it to the U.S. in the mid-1990s after getting his prosecution in Ireland on dozens of counts of child sex abuse thrown out on technicalities. He then coached for a sanctioned youth club about a triathlon away from USA Swimming headquarters in Colorado Springs, and acquired a green card for permanent American alien residency.
In our view, the criminal prosecution of this heinous figure can be debated until – if you’re of a religious bent – the hell to which he is surely headed freezes over.
But the need for transparency regarding the roles of USA Swimming and its virtual-alternative employment agency, the American Swimming Coaches Association, are prerequisites for establishing toothful accountability and oversight at our national sports governing bodies. So far Senator Feinstein, except for allowing to let stand our reports that she is supporting the FOIA request, has said nothing.
Congresswoman Speier, who announced late last year that she was assuming Capitol Hill leadership of the amateur sports abuse investigations previously spearheaded by retired Congressman George Miller, so far has said and done nothing – about Irish TD O’Sullivan’s extradition campaign or our FOIA efforts.
Shortly, we will be reporting on dead-end behind-the-scenes negotiations to liberate testimony by victims and advocates in 2013-14 to Miller’s minority party staff at the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Concededly, these were private interviews, not formal public hearings. However, in light of the U.S. Olympic Committee move to sweep everything under the rug with a new “independent” Center for Safe Sport – an agenda-chained sex police – these witnesses want Miller’s successor, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, or nominal new leader Congresswoman Speier, to make their information public. If the legislators don’t, it will be clear that Miller’s work was lip service and that Speier et al., cowed by “the power of the Olympic brand,” are telling victims they must restart from scratch.
That is the full context of the Gibney extradition and FOIA campaigns. They are about more than hounding the equivalent of a senescent concentration camp gate guard. In my own mind, they are even about more than providing “closure” to Gibney’s countless victims – though that, too, is obviously very, very important.
Additionally, the extradition appeal and FOIA are about correcting the structure and power relationships of kid sports currently run by greedy and exploitive adults.
A rather obvious question – so obvious that I myself failed to raise it until a reader alerted me yesterday – is the one in the headline over this piece. Gibney raped a 17-year-old Irish swimmer in a Florida hotel room while on a 1991 training trip. So what prevents American authorities from prosecuting him for that?
Leaving aside technicalities such as statute of limitations (it’s not clear whether there is such a limitation for a sex crime from that period, especially if the prosecutor were to seek charges for “aggravated” rape), the fundamental answer is that the victim, now in her early 40s, is in no condition to testify.
On Tuesday, after Ms. O’Sullivan rose in Parliament to ask the minister of justice to renew initiatives for Gibney’s extradition, friends approached the family of the no-longer-young woman, who spends most of her time these days in a psychiatric hospital. The friends were told that she is simply incapable of swearing out a fresh statement to police or testifying in court.
Justine McCarthy of London’s Sunday Times explained to me that this victim had been part of a second police investigation of Gibney, which culminated in 2011 with a decision by the director of public prosecutions not to apply for Gibney’s extradition from the U.S.
“She had pinned all her hopes on that and has never recovered from, first the abuse by Gibney, and then the state’s failure to vindicate her right to justice,” McCarthy said.
For any parent, for any human being, this background is a bone-chilling reminder of the essence of our fight. Let’s hope that, sooner than later, it motivates Ms. Speier and Ms. Feinstein to shed their warm-up suits and mount the starting blocks.
CONCUSSION INC.’S SERIES SO FAR: