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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
One coach dismissed the allegations against him as a "witch hunt," only to be later convicted of molesting young gymnasts.
On Friday, Judge Ronald Thompson unsealed sexual misconduct complaint files compiled by USA Gymnastics on 54 coaches.
SPRINGFIELD, GA. A judge, at The Indianapolis Star's request, released more than 5,600 pages of court records Friday detailing how USA Gymnastics handled sexual abuse allegations against coaches over a 10-year period.
The records, which include depositions of top USA Gymnastics officials and sexual abuse complaint files on 54 coaches, revealed that some coaches weren't banned from the sport until years after they were convicted of crimes against children.
One file included a letter that said a USA Gymnastics regional chairman spoke with former President Robert Colarossi in support of allowing a convicted sex offender to keep his membership.
In another case, USA Gymnastics investigated a coach and concluded he "exhibited a pattern of behavior with regards to inappropriate touching of students" but decided to put him on probation rather than terminating his membership. Court records indicate he molested young gymnasts while on probation.
The documents were released by Effingham County Judge Ronald Thompson in response to a motion filed last June by the newspaper. USA Gymnastics fought the release for nearly nine months, including in two appeals to the Georgia Supreme Court.
An IndyStar investigation last year revealed instances in which USA Gymnastics executives failed to alert authorities to allegations of child sexual abuse, and the probe found more than 360 cases in which gymnasts accused their coaches of sexual misconduct over the past 20 years. The investigation emboldened more than 80 people to come forward with allegations of sexual abuse by longtime USA Gymnastics team physician Dr. Larry Nassar.
The documents show that the Indianapolis-based national governing body required sexual misconduct complaints to be signed by a victim, victim's parent or eyewitness to the alleged abuse. President Steve Penny testified that the organization has to move carefully on complaints "because the coach is as much a member as the athlete," and the possibility of a witch hunt is "very real."
USA Gymnastics redacted the names of 17 coaches, including two who appear to have been criminally convicted but not banned from the sport. The court prohibited the release of the names of coaches who had not been criminally convicted, as well as the names of victims, gyms and people making reports about coaches.
In many files released Friday, entire pages were redacted. In one case, more than 175 consecutive pages were blacked out.
An initial examination offered greater detail about how sex abuse allegations are handled.
Some coaches named in the files argued strenuously to retain their membership, sometimes threatening legal action. One coach dismissed the allegations against him as a "witch hunt" and lies perpetrated by a competing gym, only to be later convicted of molesting young gymnasts.
USA Gymnastics' policy allows its president to terminate the membership of a person who was convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, sexual misconduct or child abuse, without an investigation. But an initial look at the court records reveals several instances in which USA Gymnastics conducted internal investigations of coaches long after they had been convicted of child sex crimes, often interviewing the same witnesses and victims interviewed by police.
USA Gymnastics has hired former federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels to review its policies and make recommendations for changes. In a statement Friday, it said it has banned 37 of the 54 coaches in the files.
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