USA Swimming is now included as a defendant in an updated filing of the civil lawsuit against a Stockton, CA swim club over alleged sexual abuse of a 13-year-old.
The case revolves around an unnamed plaintiff, a 13-year-old girl who says she was sexually abused by her swim coach, Shunichi Fujishima. The lawsuit, filed in April, lays out a number of allegations of grooming against the coach. The lawsuit is officially filed against Pacific Swimming (the LSC governing the club where the abuse allegedly happened), Stockton Swim Club, Fujishima and now USA Swimming.
In a press release today, the girl’s attorney, Bob Allard, says that new evidence shows that USA Swimming knew about abuse allegations involving another coach with that club, but covered them up and only gave the coach a warning.
The interesting piece of this suit is that Allard’s release specifically targets CEO Tim Hinchey, saying Hinchey was one of the high-ranking USA Swimming officials who knew about the allegations. While USA Swimming has faced a slew of criticism over its handling of coaching abuse allegations, most have centered around Hinchey’s predecessor, Chuck Wielgus.
Hinchey took over as CEO in July of 2017. Allard’s press release indicates that the allegations against the yet-unnamed Stockton coach came about in early June of that year, when a parent mailed a “lengthy complaint” to John Bitter, then a USA Swimming board member and official with Pacific Swimming. The complaint accused a coach of sexually abusing an 8th-grade girl.
Allard’s release says that then-USA Swimming Safe Sport Director Susan Woessner acknowledged receiving the same complaint on June 5, but chose to investigate herself rather than contacting law enforcement.
“With Hinchey and other high-ranking USA Swimming officials copied on the letter, Woessner simply issued a warning to the assistant coach, who continues to be a coach in good standing with USA Swimming and continues to have access young kids.”
It’s unclear when that letter was sent, but Allard’s release alleges that Hinchey was copied on the letter.
Several of the key players in that narrative are no longer in their former positions. Bitter was later terminated from his coaching position in Santa Clara and charged with felonies. He’s accused of embezzling money from the Santa Clara Swim Club. Woessner resigned in early 2018 after admitting she had kissed a coach later investigated on allegations that he’d groomed and sexually abused an underage swimmer. The investigation, which Woessner helped with, cleared that coach, but the swimmer has since come forward saying the coach did abuse her, and the coach has been banned by the U.S. Center for SafeSport.