USA Swimming Sued for Covering Up Childhood Sexual Abuse at Stockton Swim Club
Newly discovered documents reveal that high-ranking USA Swimming officials, including Executive Director Tim Hinchey, protected an alleged predator coach.
Stockton, CA – July 22, 2019 -- Following newly uncovered evidence, USA Swimming is now a defendant in a sexual abuse lawsuit involving one of its member clubs located in Stockton, California. The amended lawsuit was filed late last week.
In investigating coach Shunichi Fujishima’s sexual abuse of a 12-year-old swimmer, attorneys Robert Allard and Lauren Cerri of the Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard law firm discovered evidence that several high-ranking USA Swimming officials including President and CEO Tim Hinchey covered up sexual abuse allegations against a Stockton Swim Club assistant coach.
Documents reveal that USA Swimming had prior knowledge of alleged sexual abuse by another coach at this club, buried a parent complaint, and with Hinchey’s knowledge, issued a mere warning to the coach to not engage in “concerning and very inappropriate” predatory behavior.
In early June of 2017, a Stockton-area parent mailed a lengthy complaint to John Bitter, then board member at USA Swimming and General Chair for Pacific Swimming, accusing her daughter’s coach of sexually abusing her 8th-grade daughter.
USA Swimming is the National Governing body for the sport of swimming in the United States. Pacific Swimming is one of USA Swimming’s subsidiaries, called “local swimming committees”.
On June 5, 2017, then USA Swimming Safe Sport Director Susan Woessner acknowledged receiving the parent complaint sent to John Bitter.
In the complaint received by both Bitter and Woessner, the parent called her daughter’s coach “a sexual predator, a child molester, and rapist.” The parent also provided specific examples of the assistant coach engaging in predatory behavior with other underage females.
Woessner took it upon herself to investigate. She did not notify law enforcement. Instead, Woessner openly questioned the veracity of the mother’s claim and told the mother that she would contact the head coach concerning the allegations against his assistant coach, which she did seven weeks later. Following the conversation with the head coach, Woessner then spoke to the accused assistant coach. With Hinchey and other high-ranking USA Swimming officials copied on the letter, Woessner simply issued a warning to the assistant coach, who continues to be a coach in good standing with USA Swimming and continues to have access young kids.
“These documents prove that nothing has changed in the way that USA Swimming handles sexual abuse complaints,” said Allard. “For Mr. Hinchey to tell Congress that USA Swimming’s ‘commitment to preventing child sexual abuse and providing a safe and healthy environment for our athletes is constant and long-standing’ is simply lip service intended to deceive and mislead the public,” stated Allard. Less than one year after the Stockton complaint, Hinchey testified before Congress, stating, “I am deeply committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for children to grow, play, and compete.”
“USA Swimming allowed the coaches at this swim club to get away with the sexual abuse of their swimmers,” said Allard. “If USA Swimming, Pacific Swimming and Mr. Hinchey had acted to stop this culture of abuse at Stockton Swim Club, my client would never have been sexually abused by Coach Fujishima.”
USA Swimming forced Susan Woessner to resign in 2018 for previously being engaged in a “romantic relationship” with a coach who she was entrusted with investigating for sexual misconduct. Bitter is currently facing embezzlement charges in Santa Clara County for misappropriating $600,000.
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