A former FBI agent hired by USA Swimming to investigate sexual misconduct allegations against U.S. Olympic and national team coach Sean Hutchison in 2011 said top officials and attorneys for the organization falsely characterized the findings and extent of the investigation, and shut down the probe before she could interview several key witnesses, according to documents obtained by the Southern California News Group.
Olympic champion Dara Torres and her agent in sworn statements also contradict accounts Susan Woessner, then USA Swimmings athlete protection officer, provided to USA Swimming officials and attorneys about Torres version of events at a U.S. national team training camp prior to the 2009 World Championships. Hutchison was spotted during the camp leaving the hotel room of world record-setting swimmer Ariana Kukors who he had coached since she was 13.
Hundreds of pages of documents obtained by SCNG, including confidential USA Swimming emails, reports and memos, as well as depositions reveal how USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus and other top officials for the organization repeatedly expressed concerns about Hutchisons well being, about protecting his reputation and that he would leave the post-graduate Olympic caliber training group he was coaching at the Fullerton Aquatic Sports Team. The program was funded in part by USA Swimming and the U.S. Olympic Committee. USA Swimming officials even went so far as asking Hutchison to sign off on a press release at the conclusion of the investigation.
An incomplete investigation
USA Swimmings general counsel assigned Paulette Brundage, a 27-year veteran of the FBI, on December 30, 2010 to investigate allegations that Hutchison was sexually or romantically involved with Kukors, now Kukors Smith, which would be a violation of USA Swimmings Code of Conduct.
USA Swimming cleared Hutchison of any improper conduct in February 2011, stating that a “full investigation” by an “independent investigator” found “no evidence to substantiate the existence of an inappropriate sexual relationship between Coach Hutchison and the athlete,” according to a statement by then USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus.
Brundage, however, in a recent deposition obtained by SCNG disputed under penalty of perjury the conclusion of an investigators report presented to USA Swimming officials by the organizations general counsel as well the assertions that the inquiry was a full investigation by an independent investigator.
“It was not a full investigation,” Brundage said.
The investigation was shut down by USA Swimming officials before Brundage said she was able to interview what she described as four key witnesses including U.S. national team member Dana Vollmer, Kukors Smiths roommate at the 2009 pre-Worlds training camp.
Brundage said she was also told to hold off interviewing former U.S. national team director Mark Schubert by Onye Ikwuakor, then an attorney at a law firm representing USA Swimming and now associate general counsel for the U.S. Olympic Committee. Brundage was never allowed to interview Schubert who was believed by some within USA Swimming to be driving the allegations about Hutchison and Kukors Smith.
Brundage was also frustrated that Hutchison and then Fullerton Aquatic Sports Team coach Bill Jewell were first interviewed by Wielgus and that Torres was only interviewed during the 2011 investigation by Woessner, suggesting that the interviews by Wielgus and Woessner undercut USA Swimmings claim that the investigation was the work of an independent investigator.
“Dara Torres. To me, that was a crucial interview,” Brundage said. “And Bill Jewell. And track down – speak probably with more of the individuals who were in Rome, the other swimmers, (Kukors Smiths) roommate, just to get a better sense of the validity of these rumors and who else may have suspected.”
Woessner was fired in February 2018 after USA Swimming officials learned that she had kissed Hutchison in 2007 but did not disclose it prior to coordinating the organizations 2011 investigation of the coach.
All of which led Brundage to take issue with the conclusion of the investigators report that Ikwuakor and Richard Young, a longtime attorney for USA Swimming and other USOC-related organizations, presented to Wielgus and other USA Swimming officials.
“I was uncomfortable with the entire conclusion,” Brundage said in a deposition for Kukors Smiths lawsuit against Hutchison, USA Swimming, Schubert and King Aquatics, the Seattle-area swim club where she first trained with Hutchison.
“What was the part that you were most particularly uncomfortable about?” an attorney asked Brundage in the deposition.
“The whole thing, because I dont — I dont like to make conclusions based on the interviews Ive conducted,” she said. “Thats — I dont feel that Im part –should be part of that process.”
Brundage in particular challenged one part of the conclusion made in her name.
“Accordingly based upon the interviews conducted and review of the information provided to Ms. Woessner by Ms. Torres, it is my opinion that there is no evidence to substantiate the rumors of a romantic/sexual relationship between Sean Hutchison and Ariana Kukors,” read a passage of the conclusion Young and Ikwuakor presented to USA Swimming officials.
“You never made that opinion; is that true?” an attorney asked Brundage.
“Thats not an opinion I would make,” she said.
The U.S. Center for SafeSport banned Hutchison from the sport for life last October, more than seven years after he was cleared by USA Swimming, finding Hutchison had engaged in sexual misconduct against Kukors Smith when she was a minor.
The SafeSport investigation found that Hutchison molested Kukors Smith, had her perform oral sex on him and took nude photos of her when she was still a minor.
“After a thorough investigation the U.S. Center for SafeSports Response and Resolution Office finds, by a preponderance of the evidence that Responding Party Sean Hutchison violated the applicable policies as outlined in more detail in the Investigation Report, by digitally penetrating a minor, receiving oral sexual contact with a minor, and engaging in sexual intercourse all with an athlete whom he coached,” according to SafeSports confidential Notice of Directors Decision.
The investigation found that Hutchison began grooming Kukors Smith when she was 15 and 16 with “sexualized” communications that included requests to take nude photos of her and “asking if she was wearing underwear,” the report said.
Hutchison also had sexual intercourse with Kukors Smith shortly after her 18th birthday while he was still her coach, SafeSport found.
Kukors Smith, the 2009 World champion in the 200-meter individual medley, alleges that Hutchison, initially her coach at King Aquatics, began grooming her for a sexual relationship when she was 13, sexually assaulted her at 16, and continued to have a sexual relationship with her and exert control over almost every aspect of her daily life until she was 24.
Hutchison has been under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security. Homeland Security along with local law enforcement conducted search of Hutchisons apartment just south of Seattle in February. Officers seized computers and cell phones, according to persons familiar with the investigation.
Law enforcement agencies also conducted searches of warehouses connected to Hutchison and his businesses in California and Florida.
Hutchison has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing since Kukors Smith first went public with her allegations in February 2018.
Another potential scandal for USA Swimming
On December 29, 2010, Wielgus emailed Bruce Stratton, USA Swimmings recently re-elected president, and Jim Wood, a longtime board of directors member.
“CONFIDENTIAL FYI-NO RESPONSE-PLEASE DO NOT SHARE,” Wielgus wrote at the top of the email.
“Rumors are swirling today that Sean Hutchison is being forced out at FAST because of an alleged relationship with an athlete,” Wielgus continued.
Wielgus had received a call from Jack Roach, a longtime and highly regarded U.S. national team coach. Roach, Wielgus wrote in an email, had “concern about a possible relationship between a coach (Sean Hutchison) and an athlete (Ariana Kukors).” Roach had been made aware of allegations by Jon Urbanchek, a veteran of several U.S. Olympic team coaching staffs, who was coaching an Olympic-caliber post graduate distance group at FAST.
Just months after it was first publicly revealed that Everett Uchiyama was fired as U.S. national team director in 2006 and subsequently banned for life for having a sexual relationship with a teenage swimmer, Wielgus and the organization were looking at another sex abuse scandal involving arguably American swimmings brightest young coaching talent, Hutchison, and one of the sports biggest stars, Kukors Smith, heading into the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
USA Swimmings sense of urgency was increased when the Washington Post published a story reporting that there were allegations that Hutchison was involved with an athlete he was coaching
Hutchison was named to the 2008 U.S. Olympic coaching staff after building KING Aquatics into a world class club. A year later he was named Team USAs head coach for the World Championships in Rome. One of the U.S. top performers at Worlds was Kukors Smith, who in winning the 200 IM broke the world record in both the prelims and finals, knocking a total of nearly 2 ½ seconds off the previous mark. Swimming World later named her as the American female swimmer of the year.
In September 2009 Hutchison relocated to Orange County to coach the elite program at FAST, one of four so-called Centers of Excellence envisioned by Schubert. Hutchisons training group included 10 swimmers, eight women, two men, and owned a combined total of 15 World titles and 10 Olympic medals. One of the swimmers in the group was Kukors Smith.
Even before they arrived in Orange County there had been red flags within American swimming about Hutchisons relationship with Kukors Smith.
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Teri McKeever, the head coach at Cal and the 2012 U. S. Olympic womens team head coach, said in a sworn statement that she first had concerns about Hutchisons relationship with Kukors Smith at the 2006 Pan Pacific Championships, a major international competition in Victoria, B.C. Hutchison was 34 at the time, Kukors Smith was 17.
Hutchison, McKeever said was “openly spending an inordinate amount of time with Ariana Kukors both at the pool and outside of swimming sanctioned events associated with the meet.”
McKeever grew more concerned when Kukors Smith, one of the nations top high school prospects, stunned the swimming world by committing to hometown Washington, a low level program with what many in the sport considered to be the worst facility at an NCAA Division Power 5 conference school. The move was orchestrated by Hutchison, Kukors Smith said.
“I became convinced that Arianas relationship with her coach Sean Hutchison was something other than a healthy coach athlete relationship,” McKeever said.
McKeever said Hutchison continued to spend time with Kukors Smith away from the pool at the 2007 World Championships, a patterned that continued in Italy two years later.
“In 2009 I learned from my Cal athletes that while in Rome for the World Championships, Ariana and Sean Hutchison openly carried on as if they had a romantic relationship,” McKeever said. “They were always together. Going to coffee shops together. It was widely discussed that Ariana and Sean were involved in an intimate relationship.”
Jewell, the FAST coach, told USA Swimming he first overheard the Hutchison-Kukors Smith rumors in a bar at the organizations convention in September 2010.
It was Jewells pursuit of those rumors that would set off a chain of events that led to USA Swimmings investigation of Hutchison.
Mark Schubert wasnt interviewed by investigator
From the outset of the investigation, however, there were those involved in the probe who questioned Jewells motives. Schubert had been recently fired by USA Swimming after a dispute with Wielgus. Jewell was a close friend of Schuberts, working for him as an assistant coach at USC. Jewell would later join Schuberts staff at the Golden West Swim Club.
If Hutchison left the FAST-based group, a spot could conceivably open up for Schubert.
“Onye make sure our investigator presses Jewell on who was the source of the rumors,” Young wrote in an email to Ikwuakor on Dec. 30, 2010, just hours into the investigation. “Just between us there is a chance that it is a set up so that Jewell can give the Fullerton job to Schubert.”
Brundage was never able to speak to Jewell. Jewell, like Hutchison, was first interviewed by Wielgus, developments that frustrated and concerned the investigator.
Wielgus died in 2017 after a long battle with cancer.
“What was the reason for Sean speaking to Chuck and vice versa?” Brundage said.
Wielgus contact with Hutchison and Jewell deprived Brundage, an FBI trained investigator, of witnessing the initial reactions of two key figures in the probe.
“To be able to be the first one to present him with the allegations, to obtain his first response, his initial response,” Brundage said. “…yeah, that — getting the first crack is very important.”
Brundage said she “had a lot of questions in terms of exactly what Bill Jewell told Chuck, where Bill Jewell had obtained that information.”
Jewell refused to be interviewed by Brundage, only agreeing to answer questions she submitted to his attorney.
Because of the involvement of Wielgus and Woessner in key interviews, Brundage took issue with USA Swimming claiming in press releases and reports that the investigation was independent.
“It was not conducted independently of those individuals,” she said.
Brundage was asked if she was angry that USA Swimming officials attributed the independent investigation characterization to her?
“Yes,” she said.
Jewell confirmed to USA Swimming officials that he hired a private investigator to follow Hutchison in the fall of 2010. The private investigator found “there was nothing to validate,” Woessner told Brundage.
“No written report, just oral report. It turned up nothing,” according to an email.
Jewell was suspended by USA Swimming for three years in 2013 for making sexually explicit comments to young female athletes and other individuals involved with the sport.
Patrick Carroll, employee at Horseman Investigations, the firm Jewell hired to follow Hutchison, also misled Brundage during an interview about the existence of a written report. In fact a Horseman investigator filed a 10-page report that recounted Hutchison and Kukors Smith leaving his residency at 7:45 a.m. on October 2, 2010.
“With evidence that the twosome spent the night with each other, I departed the area en route to my home office to file this report,” the investigator wrote.
“I was not aware of that,” Brundage said during her deposition.
The written report, she said, indicates Carroll was “not telling the truth” and “that there was more of a relationship than what I was told.”
Had she been aware of the written report, Brundage said, “I would have wanted to conduct more investigation. And I wanted — would have wanted to know why he told me that there wasnt a report.”
Carroll also didnt reveal to Brundage that Schuberts wife worked for Horseman Investigations.
Even without knowing about Schuberts connection to Horseman, Brundage thought it was vital to interview a man whose name kept coming up in the investigation. Schubert was the U.S. national team director at the time of the 2009 World Championships in Rome and had been Hutchisons most public and persistent supporter during Hutchisons rise through the coaching ranks. Schubert, however, ripped Hutchison in a public setting after the FAST group swimmers did not perform as well as expected at the 2010 Pan Pacs meet in Irvine.
“Why not Mark Schubert?” Brundage wrote in her notes during the investigation, making a list of people she felt she needed to interview.
“Well, that name was pretty pronounced,” Brundage said in her deposition. “It kept coming up, and I didnt see it in the original request for investigation.”
But Ikwuakor would not approve a Schubert interview for the investigation.
“Onye I talked with him about interviewing these people, and he said, Hold off contacting Mark Schubert,” Brundage said.
“Fair to say that the only reason why you didnt contact Mark Schubert is because Onye told you not to?” an attorney asked Brundage.
“Yes,” she said.
When asked during a deposition about his instructions to Brundage not to contact Schubert, Ikwuakor said “I do not recall that.”
Ikwuakor said he did not recall or had no recollection to questions 55 times during his 2 ½ hour deposition.
One of Ikwuakors do not recall responses came when he was asked, “Do you recall receiving instructions from anybody” within Holme Robert & Owen, the law firm where Ikwuakor and Young worked, not to contact Schubert.
When asked at one point about a sentence he wrote in a report, Ikwuakor said, “I cannot explain why I wrote that part of the sentence.”
No interview with Torres
USA Swimming officials and attorneys did sign off on Brundage interviewing Torres, the five-time Olympian, 12-time Olympic medalist. Torres, then 42, was the U.S. teams captain at the 2009 Worlds.
Woessner, a former Indiana swimmer, telephoned Torres, telling her that Brundage would contact her for what the former FBI agent considered the investigations “crucial interview.”
“(Torres) said that was fine and confirmed that she is available tonight and tomorrow,” Woessner wrote in an email to Ikwuakor on January 5. Brundage left a message for Torres later that day and again on January 7. But two days later Ikwuakor told Brundage in an email that “we learned on Friday that Dara has been advised by her agent to not speak with you. However, it appears as though she is willing to continue communicating with Susan Woessner.”
“Im disappointed that I didnt get to talk to Dara,” Brundage said. “Very disappointed”
“I mean, why doesnt Dara want to talk to me?” Brundage said.
Woessner in a January 5 email relayed Torres comments to Ikwuakor, Young and Jennifer Bielak, another attorney.
“Dara reported the following information. She did not ever see Sean leaving Ariana Kukors room during the World Championships in Rome. She served as team captain on that trip and at some point some of the younger girls on the team mentioned to her that Sean and Ari were spending a lot of time together and she heard that he left her room at some point. She sat him down (I know that sounds weird, but Im older than him), explained that during the course of her career she has been the brunt of many rumors. She told him this is what is being said and advised him to just stay at an arms length for the rest of the trip. Dara said that Sean reacted surprised by the information and that she noticed that he did keep his distance from that point of the trip.”
Hutchison provided a similar story when interviewed by Brundage.
Torres, Brundage wrote in a report of her interview with Hutchison “came up to Hutchison and informed him that one of the little girls came to her and wondered Read More – Source