Parents of the 14 year old victim seek the removal of USA Swimming and Indiana Swimming leadership claiming that the sexual abuse of their daughter resulted from top officials refusing to investigate prior complaints against swim coach.

/ Indianapolis, IN – A lawsuit has been filed against USA Swimming, Indiana Swimming and the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township (Marion County, Indiana Superior Court #11 – #49D111111CT043440) for their failure to take action on complaints made about their certified Swim Coach, Christopher Wheat, and for the sexual abuse and assault against a then 14 year old female swimmer that resulted from that inaction.

In the lawsuit Jane Doe states she was sexually abused by Wheat on at least three occasions in 2009, leading to his arrest and conviction. The lawsuit documents that USA Swimming and Indiana Swimming had two separate opportunities to stop Wheat before he molested the young victim and potentially other young athletes. The lawsuit states one year before Jane Doe was molested by Wheat, her mother notified Indiana Swimming about Wheat’s inappropriate sexual relationship with another his minor female swimmers. Despite the notification, Indiana Swimming ignored the complaint and told her to take the complaint to Wheat’s swim club.

The lawsuit also states that USA Swimming allowed Wheat to be hired as head coach in the 2006-2007 time frame despite the fact that Wheat had resigned from the same club in the 2001-2002 time period following complaints by numerous swimmers of Wheat’s sexually inappropriate behavior.

A series of text messages between Wheat and a USA Swimming certified coach reveals that Wheat confessed to the sexual abuse but the abuse was never reported to law enforcement as required by Indiana law.

USA Swimming also failed to conduct a reasonably thorough background investigation, conduct reference checks, or otherwise take steps to review available information about Wheat.

“The failure of numerous people to disregard Christopher Wheat’s previous complaints is grounds for their removal from positions of trust”, said Little. “Similar to the Penn State University case involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, we are asking that the Indiana Attorney General and the Marion County DA prosecute those that broke the law by not reporting complaints against Wheat”, added Little.

The lawsuit further states Jane Doe is being treated for severe physical and mental conditions, and has turned to self-harming behaviors to cope with her sexual abuse and anguish, including cutting and burning herself.

“USA Swimming failed to protect Jane Doe and possibly hundreds of other swimmers by fostering a culture that places predator swim coaches in positions of authority to engage in inappropriate sexual conduct”, said Robert Allard, a San Jose, California attorney and part of the legal team seeking justice on behalf of USA Swimming sexual abuse victims.

The lawsuit claims USA Swimming has enabled coaching abuse by failing to enact prevention policies, actually thwarting reporting and investigation, and undermining the removal of predator coaches by making reporting difficult, failing to promptly investigate, and even by allowing predator coaches to just move from city to city to cover-up the complaint. “For those reasons the parents want top officials at USA Swimming and Indiana Swimming to resign or be fired, and face criminal charges for allowing such crimes to occur against their daughter and other young children”, stated Allard.

Wheat was arrested in 2009 and in May of 2010 he pled guilty to two counts of felony sexual misconduct with a minor and one count of felony child solicitation.

About Attorney Jon Little
Jonathan Little is at the forefront of protecting athletes. His lawsuit against USA Swimming is one of several that led the United States Olympic Committee taking the unprecedented step of adopting new policies aimed at curbing and eliminating the sexual molestation of young athletes. Little has experience in lawsuits on diverse range of athletic topics including: competition eligibility, competition and training visa’s (P1, O1 and B1) for entry to the United States. He has also represented clients in multi-million dollar actions against National Governing Bodies for harm committed by agents of the NGB against athletes. Little has published and done extensive research on the intersection of gender, sports and the law in “Running Against the Wind: Sex Discrimination in High School Girls Cross Country”.

Media Contact:
Ed Vasquez
Saeed & Little Law Firm

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