A California jury ruled that USA Swimming was not negligent in the case of a former Stockton swim coach who sexually abused a 13-year-old girl. But the victim did reach a settlement of $1.125 million with former defendants Stockton Swim Club and Pacific Swimming.
Former Stockton Swim Club coach Shunichi Fujishima is at the center of the suit. Fujishima pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl he’d coached, and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. That was the criminal case. Running alongside that case was a civil lawsuit between the victim, Fujishima, USA Swimming, Stockton Swim Club, and Pacific Swimming, the local swimming committee governing the Stockton area.
When Fujishima was sentenced in his criminal trial, news broke that the civil suit had reached an out-of-court settlement with two of the defendants: Stockton Swim Club and Pacific Swimming. The settlement amount wasn’t known at the time, but Bob Allard, attorney for the victim, announced in a press release today that the settlement was for $1.125 million.
The civil suit continued against USA Swimming. Both USA Swimming and Allard confirmed today that the jury had found USA Swimming not responsible in the case.
Fujishima has been banned for life by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, meaning he’s ineligible to coach any Olympic sports in the United States.
“USA Swimming is grateful to the jury for their time and consideration of this extremely important matter,” USA Swimming said in its press release. “While the decision correctly identifies who was responsible for this atrocious act, it does not right the wrong, nor should anyone forget that a child was harmed and that everyone needs to continue to do more to ensure a safer environment for our athletes.”
The release also called for survivors of abuse to report their cases to law enforcement and to the U.S. Center for SafeSport.
Meanwhile, Allard’s release said he was disappointed with the decision, but also considered the settlement a win that he says “exposed USA Swimming’s failures to protect children.”
“While we are disappointed in the result delivered by a Stockton, California jury, we can honestly say that we fought tooth and nail for full justice for a very deserving client for the hell that she has been and will go through as a result of being subjected to unspeakable molestations,” Allard said in his press release.
Some barbs have been traded since the decision, though.
Allard’s release takes direct aim at USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey, accusing Hinchey of not even understanding the process of grooming. Allard’s release quotes Hinchey during the trial saying “I’m not familiar with the — how grooming takes place.” Hinchey took over as USA Swimming CEO, about a month after the accusations against Fujishima began coming to light.
A source close to USA Swimming told SwimSwam that they felt that for months, “USA Swimming and its leadership have sat silently through a smear campaign out of respect for the survivor and to the legal process.”