A sixth civil lawsuit involving sexual abuse allegations has been filed against USA Swimming and others, while a settlement was reached in the initial 2010 case.
The latest lawsuit was filed by attorney Jonathan Little in Marion
County (Indiana) Superior Court on behalf of a teenage girl. It
involves former Lawrence Swim Team coach Christopher Wheat, who
pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct with the 14-year-old female, a
swimmer on the team, in 2010. He is now serving a 10-year prison sentence.
This lawsuit is similar to others pending against USA Swimming, the
first of which was recently settled.
That case — filed in Santa Clara County (Calif.) Superior
Court by San Jose attorney B. Robert Allard on behalf of another
teenage girl — alleged that since 1993, 32 swim coaches
across the nation allegedly have abused their athletes. Allard also
is working with Little.
The terms of the settlement were not disclosed. However, Allard
said, “My client is relieved that this matter is behind her,
but finds the most satisfaction in the fact that, through this
lawsuit and the media attention that followed, USA Swimming was
forced to completely overhaul its child protection laws...”
The new lawsuit alleges that individuals within USA Swimming,
Indiana Swimming and Metropolitan School District of Lawrence
Township were aware of inappropriate actions by Wheat and did
nothing in response.
It calls for the resignation or firing of USA Swimming’s
executive director, Chuck Wielgus, and others, including John
Diercks, former Lawrence coach, and Amanda Juntenen Cox, a coach at
McCutcheon High School. Plaintiffs contend that Diercks received
complaints about Wheat as early as 2001, along with others in
positions of authority at Indiana Swimming and USA Swimming, and no
one took the matter to law enforcement. Diercks denied involvement
to the Indianapolis Star Tribune. Cox and school officials
gave no comment in initial reports.
Text messages from 2009 between Wheat and Cox were submitted as
evidence in the criminal trial, and show that Wheat revealed his
relationship with the girl to Cox at that time.
“Knowing what we know now, the pattern is all too
familiar,” Allard said.
Regarding this latest lawsuit, USA Swimming legal counsel released
the following statement: “The lawsuit, as filed, does not
allege wrongdoing by any USA Swimming employee. ...
“USA Swimming was first alerted to abuse by Chris Wheat when
he was arrested in October 2009. Upon learning of the arrest, USA
Swimming immediately implemented the process to expel and
permanently ban Chris Wheat from USA Swimming, which was
accomplished in December 2009. The review system in this case
worked expeditiously and effectively to remove Wheat permanently
from the membership.
“USA Swimming has developed one of the most comprehensive
Athlete Protection Programs among Olympic Sports. [It] includes
mandatory background checks for all coach and non-athlete members,
a Code of Conduct governing all members, a mandatory reporting
requirement in instances of sexual misconduct, a public listing of
those suspended from the organization for life and a system for