Lawsuit filed against former coach, swim organizations

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A victim molested by the former swim coach at an Indianapolis high school and club team is suing the former coach, the school corporation and two swimming organizations, arguing several people knew of the coach’s past inappropriate contact with minors and did nothing about it.

Chris Wheat, who worked as a coach with Lawrence Swim Team and at Lawrence North High School, pleaded guilty in 2010 to two counts of felony sexual misconduct with a minor and one count of felony child solicitation. The charges stemmed from his sexual contact with the plaintiff in this case, who was then a 14-year-old freshman on the Lawrence Swim Team, which is a USA Swimming-sanctioned club.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in Marion Superior Court  by Saeed & Little on behalf of the victim, referred to as “Jane Doe,” contains 16 counts against defendants United States Swimming Inc., Indiana Swimming, the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township, Wheat, John Diercks and Amanda Cox. Diercks is the former head swim coach at Lawrence North, founder of the Lawrence Swim Team and a former head coach of the team. Cox is a USA Swimming-certified swim coach and coach at McCutcheon High School in Tippecanoe County. Indiana Swimming is the administrative arm of USA Swimming in this state.

The suit alleges that the defendants knew of Wheat’s past behavior involving minors he coached but did not report it to police. Wheat was rehired in 2003 after resigning from the swim club team several years earlier following allegations of inappropriate sexual contact with minors. Swimmers and parents were told only that he resigned in 2001 to take another job. The suit claims if the defendants had notified police when they originally learned of Wheat’s inappropriate behavior, then Doe wouldn’t have been sexually molested. It also claims that USA Swimming knew of coaches associated with other teams that had abused swimmers, but the organization did not put any protection policies in place.

Indiana law requires teachers and coaches to report sexual abuse of minors to law enforcement officials.

Doe seeks a jury trial on her claims and economic and noneconomic compensatory damages, punitive damages, interest, and all other relief deemed proper.

A federal suit against USA Swimming and Westfield Washington School Corp. is pending before Judge Tanya Walton Pratt. Brooke Taflinger swam for a club team whose coach had placed a video camera in the locker room to secretly tape Taflinger and other teen girls on the team while they changed clothes. She alleges that USA Swimming failed to protect the swimmers from Brian Hindson’s behavior. Hindson is currently serving a 33-year sentence in Florida after pleading guilty to 11 counts of child pornography.


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