Tag: USA Gymnastics

Be Wary of Accused Who Say “I Cared Too Much”

The headline immediately set off alarm bells here in our office: “Suspended Gymnastics Coach Speaks out: ‘I Cared Too Much’”

That’s atop the New York Times’ profile of Maggie Haney, who has been forbidden to coach for eight years due to accusations of ‘berating and mistreating her athletes.’

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/30/sports/olympics/gymnastics-abuse-laurie-hernandez-haney.html?searchResultPosition=1

The claim of ‘caring too much’ has been used (abused?) by many an abuser.

This claim alone might not be as upsetting. But it’s followed by other troubling quotes from Haney:

“Maybe what used to be OK isn’t OK any more. . . ”

“Maybe the culture has changed. . . ”

“I think a lot of this is about money. . .”

“I wanted them (student athletes) to be a little too perfect every day when maybe that’s not possible. . .”

Haney also lays plenty of blame elsewhere.

First, she attacks the gymnastics officials who’ve banned her (saying she’s being made a scapegoat because of their mishandling of the Larry Nassar scandal).

Then, she blames parents who have supposedly become “too invested in their daughters’ success” and are now “emboldened to lash out and potentially crush anyone who stands in their daughters’ way.”

Then, it’s other coaches, who “are just letting the girls do whatever because they don’t want to get in trouble.”

And she predicts that unless her style of coaching continues, gymnastics will “be filled with underachievers. . .” because coaches won’t push youngsters hard enough.

Maybe. But listen to two of the parents who support Haney.

One describes that type of gymnastics as “a 9 to 5 job.”

Another says “If I wanted her to come home smiling and happy every day, I’d send her to clown school,” adding that if a parent doesn’t “like it, get up and leave.”

No matter how driven or talented a child is (or a parent THINKS their child is), we at Horowitz Law cringe at the notion that any activity, including school, should ever be considered a 9 to 5 job for anyone who is underaged. And we categorically reject the notion that if an adult suspects abusive behavior towards kids, the responsible decision is just to “get up and leave,” which of course may mean that other children, just not yours, are mistreated.

 But back to the allegations themselves (which – let us be clear – are not sexual in nature) – it is of course possible (though unlikely in our view) that Haney is innocent.

Keep in mind, however, that USA Gymnastics did an investigation, held hearings, listened both to accusers and defenders of Haney, and concluded that the coach’s ‘aggressive behavior’ toward kids was ‘severe.’ (Haney’s lawyer claims the hearings were ‘biased’ and ‘a kangaroo court.)

Still, our decades of experience with abuse tell us that the ‘take away’ here is simple – The welfare of the kids – not the coaches, parents, schools or athletic programs – always comes first. 

We should err on the side of caution, always, because while short term success in sports is great, a child’s long term personal, emotional, sexual and physical health and safety is better.

bankruptcy diocese horowitz law

Dioceses. Boy Scouts. USA Gymnastics: The Real Reason They’re Crying “BANKRUPTCY”

Increasingly, venerable institutions like the Boy Scouts, the USA Gymnastics and Catholic dioceses say they are going into bankruptcy because of child sex abuse and cover up lawsuits.

So maybe it’s time to re-think those suits and the laws that enable them?

To put it bluntly, that’s a crazy idea. Bear with us as we explain.

For starters, let’s look more closely at why big non-profits like this sometimes seek Chapter 11 protection.

Are they being “forced to” (as some headline writers suggest)? Or are they doing so for selfish reasons?

Our bet is the latter.

Most who declare bankruptcy do so because it’s undeniable that their expenses have and may continue to rise. Why? Because they’ve been and sometimes still are short-sighted and selfish regarding abuse.

But look at these crystal-clear facts about the hierarchies of these institutions..

–Most of the costs of these lawsuits are covered by insurance. In other words, these institutions have ALREADY paid out because of abuse, on the front end.

(USA Today last week reported “The Boy Scouts expect insurance will cover ‘a substantial portion’ of the money owed to victims, according to a court filing.)

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/boy-scouts-bankruptcy-what-we-know-about-victims-assets-and-the-future-of-scouting/ar-BB1085YS?ocid=se2

–Every day, Scouting and church officials are still bringing in dollars (donations, bequeaths, rents, investments).

–There’s no solid way to predict whether that income will go up or down. (Many organizations end up stronger if they deal with abuse scandals well.)

–There’s no real way to predict how many victims will sue.

–And there’s no way to predict how those lawsuits will turn out.

–When some bishops have faced abuse litigation, they’ve boosted their income by selling property, getting loans or taking similar steps.

So one must ask: are these institutions seeking Chapter 11 status because they HAVE TO or because they WANT TO.

Again, we strongly suspect the latter.

Some find this notion hard to believe. “Bankruptcy is embarrassing and time-consuming,” they say.

It may be. But consider the alternative.

A bankruptcy filing stops litigation. No more documents turned over to victims’ or their attorneys. No more depositions. No testimony in open court that reveals how much officials knew about abuse and how little they did to stop abuse. No more tough questions under oath. No more having to face a deeply wounded victim or victims across a conference room table or in a courthouse.

That’s what is BEYOND embarrassing for those who suspected but hid or ignored heinous crimes against kids. THAT’S what they’re really afraid of and worried about.

Others claim “Bankruptcy means you have to turn over your files and finances for a judge to examine, and who’d want to do that?”

Again, that may be true. But bankruptcy judges look at files about assets, not abuse. Bankruptcy court shifts the focus entirely, away from “Who hid crimes?” and toward “Who gets money?”

So keep in mind that we all have choices, especially the CEOs and CFOs and bishops and other honchos who have big salaries and impressive titles AND who enabled predators to hurt kids.

They can choose to safeguard their careers and reputations, and hide behind the protections offered by Chapter 11.

Or they can choose to safeguard the innocent, help the wounded and let the truth come out in court.

Don’t believe them when they claim “We have no choice but to declare bankruptcy.. . .”

USA Gymnastics Scandal: Failure to Report Sex Abuse Allegations

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According to investigative reporting by the Indianapolis Star, USA Gymnastics failed to report allegations of sexual abuse by coaches to proper authorities.

USA Gymnastics trains the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. Nationally, it includes more than 121,000 athletes and 3,000 gyms with its executive office in Indianapolis.  USA Gymnastics has had the practice of not notifying authorities of sexual abuse allegations unless the complaints were signed by a victim or a parent of the victim. Most third-party reports are considered hearsay. The state of Indiana requires everyone to report sexual abuse; however, USA Gymnastics has argued that organizations are not bound to that law.

Records show that the organization executives have compiled complaint dossiers on more than 50 coaches and filed them in a drawer in its executive office. They are not accessible to the public.  Despite sealed records of abuse allegations, the Indianapolis Star was able to discover and investigate multiple cases of sexual abuse that continued despite USA Gymnastics being alerted.

In 2011 USA Gymnastics received complaints about Marvin Sharp detailing incidents of inappropriate touching and warning that he should not be around children. Sharp was named 2010 national Women’s Coach of the Year. Four years after original complaints, USA Gymnastics finally reported Sharp for accusations that he touched a gymnast’s vagina, trimmed her pubic hair, and took sexually explicit pictures of her beginning when she was 12 years old. He was convicted last year and killed himself while in jail.

Coach Mark Schiefelbein was convicted in 2003 of molesting a Tennessee girl when she was 10 years old. USA Gymnastics had numerous complaints about him alleging sexual assault, but failed to notify the appropriate authorities. The girl’s family contacted the police in 2002. According to police records, Schiefelbein penetrated her vagina with his finger and videotaped her exposed vagina. He is currently serving a 36-year sentence in prison.

Coach James Bell was arrested in 2003 for molesting three young gymnasts in Rhode Island. USA Gymnastics allegedly has complaints about Bell dating five years prior to his arrest. Bell went on the run in 2004 and was rearrested in 2015. He is currently serving an 8-year sentence in prison for child molestation.

USA Gymnatics complaints about Coach William McGabe allegedly date back as a far as 1998. One complaint warned that McGabe “should be locked in a cage before someone is raped.” McGabe pleaded guilty in 2006 to charges including molesting gymnasts, videotaping girls changing clothes and posting their pictures on the internet. He is serving a 30-year sentence in prison.

It is despicable that an organization like USA gymnastics did not take available measures to protect the safety of children.  When a youth organization is entrusted with enriching the lives of children through athletics, they must also take on the responsibility of protecting children from harm.

Attorney Adam Horowitz is experienced in filing lawsuits arising from sexual abuse in youth-serving organizations.  If you or someone you know has been a victim of a sexual abuse, please email attorney Adam Horowitz at adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com or call our law firm at (954) 641-2100.