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Orange County Register (California)

 

Four female athletes who are former water polo players at Kennedy High have filed two separate civil lawsuits against Anaheim Union High School District and USA Water Polo alleging sexual battery, negligence, emotional distress and false imprisonment related to incidents with their coaches.

The personal injury complaints, filed Friday in Orange County Superior County by the Irvine-based firm Manly, Stewart and Finaldi, accuse former coaches Joshua Christopher Owens and Bahram Hojreh of sexual battery among other allegations, and the coaches, district, USA Water Polo and club with negligent supervision.

Two former players, referred to as Jane Does in court documents to protect their privacy, filed lawsuits against Owens and the district, while three players, also referred to as Jane Does, directed their complaint against Hojreh, the district, USA Water Polo and Hojreh's former club, International Water Polo Club.

The lawsuits don't cite a monetary amount they are seeking in damages but did request a jury trial.

"It's the grooming process that leads to these girls' loss of innocence," said attorney Morgan Stewart, who is representing the players and their families. "Our clients in these cases were physically, emotionally and sexually abused by prominent coaches whom they trusted to nurture their athletic goals.

"The Anaheim (Union High) School District, International Water Polo Club and USA Water Polo had reason to know that these coaches engaged in unlawful sexually-related conduct in the past, and/or was continuing to engage in such conduct. Yet they give these predators access to our clients and did nothing to prevent their abuse."

The Anaheim district and USA Water Polo didn't comment on the lawsuit Tuesday.

Last week, Owens, 24, of La Palma, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting three teenage girls and was sentenced to six months in jail. The former water polo and swimming coach at Kennedy pleaded guilty to one felony count each of oral copulation of a victim younger than 16 and sexual penetration of a victim younger than 16 along with six misdemeanor counts of child annoyance.

Hojreh, a prominent coach who annually helped host a major youth water polo tournament, is facing criminal charges after authorities allege he sexually abused seven girls on a Los Alamitos-based water polo club.

The former Kennedy and University high school coach is facing nearly two dozen felony and misdemeanor charges, including lewd acts upon a child, sexual penetration of a minor with a foreign object, child annoyance and sexual battery.

The sexual assaults were alleged to have happened when Hojreh was coaching at International Water Polo Club in Los Alamitos. In April, he pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial, according to the Irvine law firm.

One of the alleged victims, Stewart said Tuesday, is part of the lawsuits against Hojreh and Owens. Stewart said it was a "rarity" for one school to have two coaches from the same sport be accused by the same alleged victim.

"There's something wrong there," Stewart said. "I think there are more victims out there."

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