Legislation to ban confidential lawsuit settlements involving
allegations of child sexual abuse, and lengthen the statute of
limitations for victims to file civil actions, has been introduced
in California. Plans to enact similar legislation also are
under way in Indiana. Both actions relate to abusers caught up in
the USA Swimming sex abuse scandal.
“We want these people to be held accountable,” Robert
Allard, an attorney with Corsiglia McMahon & Allard LLP, in San Jose,
Calif., represents the female teenager who sued convicted sexual
predator and former swim coach Andrew King, now banned for life
from USA Swimming. The King case was the first in a series that
embroiled USA Swimming. He also represents Jancy Thompson, who is
suing former USA Swimming coach Norm Havercroft, alleging that he
sexually abused her when she was a teenage swimmer more than a
Allard and his clients met with California Assembly Member Jim
Beall (D-San Jose), who introduced AB 1628 in February 2012.
Co-authored by Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara), the bill
includes several key provisions. It would ban confidential lawsuit
settlements involving allegations of child sexual abuse; increase
the statute of limitations for victims to file civil actions from
age 26 to age 35; require background checks for anyone who has
significant interaction with minors; and create accountability for
mandatory reporting of any suspected incident.
Organizations must have centralized reporting processes to prevent
suspected predators from just moving around within the operation,
As of press time, the bill was moving through the committee
process. It is expected to go up for a full Assembly vote in the
“Closed settlements lead to more abuse, and we think
it’s in the public interest to change that,” Assembly
Member Beall said.
Meanwhile, in Indiana, state Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) has
announced his intention to introduce legislation during the 2013
session to ensure that convicted sexual predators serve designated
“I am currently pursuing two options that include either
increasing incarceration time served by subtracting credit given
for earned degrees from a sex offender’s actual prison
sentence, rather than release date; or prohibiting sex offenders
from taking advantage of the education credit program at
all,” said Merritt in an official statement.
His efforts came about following word that convicted sex offender
Christopher Wheat would be released after serving only about
1½ years of an eight-year sentence. Wheat, a former USA
Swimming coach, was convicted in 2010 for having a sexual
relationship with one of his 14-year-old female swimmers. He
received the reduced time due to good behavior and earning two
degrees during his incarceration.
Wheat coached at the high school Merritt’s children attended.
He is currently banned for life from USA Swimming.
Looking ahead, Merritt and Beall are optimistic that the
legislation will pass. Allard and his clients now are looking
toward the federal government. They’re working with Reps. Zoe
Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Mike Honda (D-Calif.) to pass a federal law
and schedule official congressional hearings regarding USA
Swimming. These would be similar to the Major League Baseball
steroid hearings, Allard explained.