Georgia Judge Releases USA Gymnastics Sex Abuse Files

A Georgia 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 conducted a lengthy investigation into 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 IndyStar. 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 found more than 360 cases in which gymnasts accused their coaches of sexual misconduct over the last 20 years.

The investigation also emboldened more than 80 people to come forward with allegations of sexual abuse against longtime USA Gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar.

The documents show that the Indianapolis-based national governing body employed a policy of requiring 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.”

Some of the files USA Gymnastics compiled on member coaches were more than 300 pages long, spanning more than a decade, and others were as brief as five pages.

USA Gymnastics redacted the names of 17 of the 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.

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SOURCE: USA Today; The Indianapolis Star, Marisa Kwiatkowski, Tim Evans and Mark Alesia