Leading USA Swimming Coach Accused Of Statutory Rape . . . 23 Years Ago

The swimming community in the Washington area has been rocked by news that a prominent swimming coach, Rick Curl, has been accused for having sexual relations with an underaged girl in the 1980s. The report below details a settlement under which the girl agreed to remain silent about the allegations — allowing Curl to continue to coach and participate in the U.S. Olympic team staff. USA Swimming has issued a statement on the controversy.

Curl is the founder of the Curl Burke swim club and has now taken a leave of action. For full disclosure, three of my four children swim in this area for the Chesterbrook Tiger Sharks which are the Division One champs (which is part of USA Swimming). They have not been part of the Rick Curl program, though it is a well known presence in the area and has many elite swimmers.

Kelley Currin, whose maiden name was Kelley Davies, had decided to break the agreement after decades of silence. She said Curl had sexual relations with her for four years beginning in 1983, when she was 13. At the time, he was 33.

Currin’s parents, Gerald and Pamela Davies, learned of the alleged relationship after reading her diary — soon before she left for the University of Texas on a swimming scholarship in 1987. She says that their lawyer discouraged them from going to the police. I am not sure why any lawyer would give such advice. Indeed, it seems to raise serious ethical issues in light of the serious criminal offense. Moreover, I am unsure why parents would yield to such advice. Putting aside the natural impulse to mete out justice on a personal level, I cannot imagine treating this as a simple civil matter as a parent particularly given the risk of a habitual offender in this category of crime. However, in 1989, the parties reached a non-disclosure agreement under which Curl agreed to compensate the family $150,000 over 11 years for the “pain and suffering experienced by her” if she agreed not to press charges or speak publicly. Paying for an alleged victim not to go to police raises ethical issues.

First, I am skeptical that such an agreement could be enforced on public policy grounds.

Second, it could itself be viewed as a crime. The New York Bar dealt with this question:

A lawyer representing the aggrieved party in a case in which there is potential criminal as well as civil liability should also be cautious when a potential defendant requests a non-reporting agreement because the aggrieved party threatened prosecution before seeking advice of counsel. In such a case, and particularly if the potential defendant remains unrepresented, the lawyer who represents the potential plaintiff/complaining witness must bear in mind that it is a form of extortion, punishable as a felony, to obtain property from a person by instilling in him or her a fear that, if the property is not delivered, the actor or another will accuse some person of a crime or cause criminal charges to be instituted against him. N.Y. Penal Law ss 155.05(2)(e), 155.30(6). It is an affirmative defense to this crime that the accused “reasonably believed the threatened charge to be true and that his sole purpose was to compel or induce the victim to take reasonable action to make good the wrong which was the subject of such threatened charge.” N.Y. Penal Law s 155.15(2). If it is unreasonable to believe that a crime was committed, or if the property sought from the potential defendant has a value in excess of that required to “make good the wrong,” the lawyer representing the potential plaintiff/complaining witness must withdraw the client’s threat. Otherwise, the lawyer risks becoming an accomplice to extortion, and violating DR 7-105(A) as well as DR 1-102(A)(3) (illegal conduct involving moral turpitude) and DR 1- 102(A)(4) (conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation).

Such agreements seem a modern version of “blood money” systems that are still used in some Middle Eastern countries. Historically, a person would be jailed until he paid the family of the victim what they demanded. In this case, the settlement was made to avoid a criminal charge.

The saving grace for the attorney can be the fact that the client is asserting innocence and making no concession of guilt. Thus, the settlement is ostensibly based on the desire to avoid the publicity associated with such claims and not necessarily to avoid legal process.

Curl, who coached Tom Dolan to three medals in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, recently attended the U.S. Olympic trials in Omaha.

Currin, now 43, says that she simply got fed up with remaining silent even though she agreed to the terms when she was 19. It has been 23 years. She says that their lawyer told them that Andrew Sonner, then the Montgomery County State’s Attorney, told him or her that Curl would get only “a slap on the wrist.” That raises a host of other legal questions. One is whether Sooner was informed of a statutory rape case and did not take action or encourage the charge to be filed. Sooner says he has no memory of the conversation. Another question is the questionable advice: a statutory rape charge against a person with supervision of children usually results in serious punishment. Being a coach in charge of young girls would constitute a major aggravating factor.

Finally, there is the question of criminal charges after decades of delay. In Virginia, there is no statute of limitations for sexual assault. Given the statement of the alleged victim, it will be interesting to see if prosecutors move to arrest Curl. That would place both his and the Davies’s lawyers in a precarious spot of being called to a grand jury with a host of privilege and ethical issues.

Curl remains featured on his club website and the driving force behind the success of the club. The Curl Burke swim club issued the following statement:

Dear CUBU Families,Coaches, and Staff,

In response to the article that appeared in the Washington Post today, Rick Curl has decided to take a leave of absence effective immediately. Pete Morgan will assume the role of Head Coach of the Curl Burke Swim Club. In addition, Tom Ugast, Director of Operations at CUBU since 2010 will continue to process all management functions on a day to day basis.

Curl Burke Swim Club takes very seriously the health and well being of your children that swim for our Club. All of our coaches value the time they spend with the swimmers. As a Club we follow USA Swimming’s “Safe Sport” program to help ensure the safety and well being of everyone involved in our sport.
In 2010, all of our head site coaches attended the first seminar put on by Potomac Valley Swimming in conjunction with USA Swimming to educate our coaches in athlete protection.
In 2011, under the new policies that were adopted by USA Swimming, Curl Burke adopted a program that includes a code of conduct for our coaches, training in athlete protection, and mandatory background checks of all coaches. We strive to create an atmosphere that is safe and nurturing to all of our swimmers.

This article is painful for our Club. If you have any questions or concerns going forward, please contact Tom Ugast.

Source: Washington Post

90 thoughts on “Leading USA Swimming Coach Accused Of Statutory Rape . . . 23 Years Ago”

  1. Idealist, Matt Sandusky’s real mother tried over and over again to get the state to make sure her son was not in the control of Jerry Sandusky; repeatdly she was rebuffed, LEGALLY. Sandusky adopted the boy when he turned 18. I figured out why he waited: Had he done so before the boy was 18, he would have had to go through a full Juvenile Court proceeding to terminate the mother’s parental rights; she would have had the right to counsel to defend those rights. There would have been subpoena power, etc. and maybe the mother would have been able to get her kid back. So by waiting, Sandusky left the courts with the ability to rebuff the mother without giving her either representation or a chance to put in evidence. She never had the jurisdiction of a court to let her advocate for her son but she was deprived of her son without the process of adoption being followed.

    THIS IS KEY IN THE DENIAL OF RIGHTS: Do whatever you want to do without allowing a complete evidentiary record to be compiled. In other words, Jerry got the kid, had the kid, controlled the kid, molested the kid, and never had to show anything about his fitness as a parent, adoptive or other. Meanwhile, the mom lost the kid without being proven either dangerous, unfit or inappropriate. NO EVIDENCE and NO PROCESS and just, “let’s do what this guy wants and keep it out of court until it’s moot.”

    Very common practice.

  2. Matt J: A DC lawyer told you slander and defamation are crimes? Defined as crimes? REALLY? I want to check that — not that I disbelieve it per se but that I want to see it and understand it. I thought it was a “tort” and not a crime, and your saying that it will cost well into five figures to prosecute it makes me believe “tort” and not “crime” because nobody charges a complaining witness for a prosecution of a crime; that’s the business the state has to pay for, not a private party. But I will check.

    See, I do know there’s a difference between a justice system and a judicial system; we do not have, never did have, and never can have a justice system; we have the judicial system that has led to all the stories posted on this blog and many that are even worse. I agree with you.

    I’ll report back with whatever I find about slander and defamation being criminal or civil. If I were a betting person and if I had anything to bet, I’d lay money on “tort” and not “crime.”

  3. I talked to a Washington, DC lawyer a month or two ago. He said slander and defamation is a crime, but it’s going to cost you well into five figures to prosecute it. Maybe more.

    Do you remember what was said earlier about a legal system rather than a judicial system? Health care? What about a parasitic judicial system?

  4. BarkinDog, with regard to “A deal not to squeal is a deal,” you may think that’s true, but here’s how that deal gets enforced:

    1. A deal not to squeal is a deal.
    2. Blabby broke the deal, after they got $150,000 for it.
    3. Poopy Doopy is really mad about that, but it’s not criminal, it’s civil.
    4. So Poopy Doopy has to go hire a lawyer (Let’s make him Mr. Pugh of the law firm “Pompy, Puffy and Pugh, Limited Liability Partnership” commonly known as PPPLLP) and he gets a $30,000 retainer to sue for breach of contract and slander. But whom does he sue? Oh what the Hell, let him sue Blabby and Blabby’s parents. We’ll see how that works out.
    5. Blabby and her parents don’t have to look very far for lawyers; lots of lawyers are already writing her and her parents letters asking for the case.
    6. Blabby countersues for a few million dollars — name a figure.
    7. The contract breach case goes to court, enhanced by now by the slander case, the counterclaims and the press reports, wow times superwow, and law school students start to write papers on the case, for credit.

    Think of the jury trial. Have you got tickets for your dogpack to attend?

    Remember the contract in the Baby M case by the time it reached the Supreme Court of New Jersey?

    Remember the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Foretich versus Morgan?

    PICNIC day for lawyers!

  5. Humanoids do not know how to run a dog pack. The 13 year old kid’s parents cut a deal with the perp and their part of the bargain was to keep quiet for some cash. Since they were barking for her, so to speak, they must now pay up for her breaking their bargain. A deal to not squeal is a deal. However, the dog pack talked this over last night and the consensus is that Coach Willard or what ever his name was, should not be a coach, nor a teacher, nor a principal, nor a janitor, in that school. Or any school. Nor should he draw unemployment. He needs a job out in the real world. This is another example of why we dont need sports in schools. Send the perp to State Penn. It usually takes a kid about six years to matriculate there so give the guy six years– one for each hump he made all those years ago. And do not let the inmates there give him the name HumpinDog. Its already taken.

  6. Hurston is the inspiration for my continuing belief that I have the right to bore people with my stories.

    Cameron, I haven’t seen Matt J pretend to be a lawyer. Sometimes people get mistaken for pretend lawyers simply because they cotton on to what the law is pretending to say even without going through the education and getting the degree. I showed up in Iowa in a trial once, clearly told the judge I was not a lawyer, and explained that I was helping the pro se litigant with the papers and with her exhibits etc. He gave me permission to sit alongside her like her secretary and assist. The lawyer for the other side got pissed and reported me for “practice without a license” trying to get me charged with a crime. I got a threatening letter from the Attorney Discipline Board asking me to respond to the charge. I didn’t respond. I figured, if I’m not a lawyer, I don’t have to respond to a lawyer disciplinary board letter. Sure enough they all blew themselves away. If they had a crime to charge me with, they knew where I was — at the address they sent the letter to. The point I’m making is that if someone doesn’t CLAIM to be a lawyer and doesn’t file papers in court pretending to be a lawyer, they can be presumed to be a “NAL” — not a lawyer. I think that applies to Matt J.

  7. cameron,

    Sorry, this the only blog I’ve posted anything to. Have never pretended to be a lawyer.

  8. Matt is a pretend lawyer on another site too. He goes by Brian on SwimSwam. Total loser.

  9. Malisha, I love Zora Neale Hurston. She had a character in, Their Eyes Were Watching God, who was known as, “Ol’ Pee Da Bed.” My wife tells me to never become that name!

  10. We need the equivalent of FOX news (in drawing power in a specialized news channel.

    Let’s call it “Injustice in Your Family’s life”.
    Let’s fill it with solidly based “sniff” programs, some with a happy ending. some with catastrophes.
    Put in at late hours talking heads with deeper content for the intellectuals. Late hour (recorded) extended debate program, with tough and qualified program leaders.

    Add your own ideas. It is your air space. The FCC says so.

  11. Someone tell Zora Neale Hurston what that someone told me:

    A story may be repeatedly told until the need goes away.

    I heard that when I complained of hearing the same story
    several times from another third party.

    Of course, my story as yet is not fully told!!!!!!!.

    Funny isn’t it that we have difficulty seeing ourselves and others at the same time.

    75 is a difficult starting point. Boo hoo. Better late than never, trite but true I feel.

    And thanks to Malisha for being the surrogate “storyteller”.

  12. Good on her.

    “There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.”
    ― Zora Neale Hurston

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