Jury Finds USA Swimming Not Negligent in California Case

Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

A jury in the Jane Doe v. USA Swimming case in Stockton, California, today found that USA Swimming was not responsible for the actions committed by a coach employed by a California swim club.

USA Swimming Press Release

USA Swimming is grateful to the jury for their time and consideration of this extremely important matter. 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.

An independent body was presented USA Swimming’s athlete protection program, along with expert analysis, and concluded that USA Swimming’s Safe Sport program and initiatives met or exceeded the standard of care for a youth serving organization.

Today’s decision reinforces our course of action and strengthens our resolve to continue to focus on what is important – protecting our athletes and our membership.

Background per The Gazette in Colorado Springs

Former swim coach Shunichi Fujishima of Stockton Swim Club was sentenced to 12 years in prison by a Stockton, California judge, and had pleaded guilty to sexually terrorizing an underaged girl that he coached over seven months last year. He also pleaded guilty to targeting a 13-year-old girl he coached with unlawful sexual communications for four months.

The girl, who is now 14 and remained nameless only to be identified as Jane Doe, testified in October that the ongoing sexual assaults her swim coach began inflicting on her when she was just 12 robbed her of her dreams of becoming an elite swimmer and left her with memories so horrifying she can’t imagine ever jumping in a pool and competing again, according to The Gazette.

The unnamed sexual assault victim filed a lawsuit against USA Swimming for negligence that allowed Stockton Swim Club to “become a sexual hunting ground for the team’s head coach,” according to The Gazette.

“USA Swimming does not seem to understand that almost 95 percent of its members are children,” Jane Doe’s lawyer B. Robert Allard said. “As such, they are one of the largest child care organizations in the country and have a critically important obligation to keep kids safe, especially from predators.”

USA Swimming insists others are to blame for the sexual abuse of the young swimmer in Stockton, also claiming that sexual safety training was made available to the Stockton Swim Club before the incident, clearing USA Swimming of responsibility if that training wasn’t done.

Allard has sued USA Swimming before for other sexual assaults by swim coaches.

Stockton Swim Club had been caught up in another sexual misconduct case in 2017 about another coach in the club. Marco Villanueva, then 19, wrote inappropriate Snapchat messages to a 13-year-old girl in 2014 and 2015.

Despite reviewing the Snapchat messages and finding that Villanueva transported the girl to social engagements without the permission of the girl’s mother, USA Swimming issued only a written warning that allowed Villanueva to continue coaching.

While USA Swimming was investigating Villaneuva, Fujishima began pressuring Jane Doe for sex according to evidence in the criminal case. He had sent explicit photos to the young girl during the same month USA Swimming received the complaints about Villaneuva and had begun regularly driving the swimmer from swim practice to his apartment to have sex with her in May 2018. She said the sexual assaults lasted for seven months in her application for a restraining order against Fujishima.

“There was a complete absence of any child protection measures which were implemented at the Stockton Swim Club, thereby making it a very attractive haven for predator coaches,” Allard said. He argued that USA Swimming is still not requiring young swimmers to take training on how to spot sexually predatory coaches and how to protect themselves from becoming targets for abuse.

USA Swimming in July began mandating that its adult members take abuse safety training (Minors, but the organization still doesn’t require such training for members who are children or their parents. The organization makes safety training information available online for parents and children who want to review it on a voluntary basis.

Allard said only requiring safety training for adults actually can make matters worse. The limited approach can create situations where predator coaches receive training they can exploit to avoid detection, he said. Meanwhile, children, who make up the vast majority of USA Swimming membership, and their families remain in the dark on how to protect against sexual abuse, Allard added.

If you are a survivor of abuse, we encourage you to report to law enforcement and to the U.S. Center for SafeSport. USA Swimming also offers resources to survivors. For more information visit: www.usaswimming.org/report or email swimassist@usaswimming.org.