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Sports Performance Class Action Lawsuit Alleges Sexual Assault

Recently, it was reported that a famous youth volleyball coach was accused of sexually assaulting (going as far as raping) teenage volleyball players in the ’80s. These actions occurred in hotel rooms, on a train and elsewhere, according to a recent class-action filed this past week. The volleyball coach, Rick Butler, and his wife, Cheryl, deceived many young players and their parents into joining their Sports Performance Volleyball Club. The lawsuit claims, “based upon false information and material omissions” regarding allegations of “sexual abuse of underage girls” by Mr. Butler. Rick Butler and Cheryl Butler were named as defendants in suit, which was filed in Illinois on Tuesday 2/27,  by Laura Mullen, the mother of an athlete who trained at the club in 2012. Ms. Mullen said she would have never have sent her daughters to the club had she known about the allegations against Mr. Butler. Here’s what we know about the Sports Performance Class Action Lawsuit:

The New York Times reports the following: The court documents, reported by The Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday, say that Mr. Butler continued to coach even though U.S.A. Volleyball, the sport’s national governing body, barred him in 1995 over allegations that he sexually abused three teenage athletes. The organization partly lifted the ban in 2000, and Mr. Butler, who was never charged with a crime, returned to coaching. He was permanently barred earlier this year.

The lawsuit, which seeks a jury trial and compensation for fees paid to the club, claims at least six teenagers were abused by Mr. Butler and describes allegations from five of them. Some of their accounts were first published in November by The Sun-Times.

In a statement at the time to the newspaper, released through a lawyer, Mr. Butler said: “I have never sexually abused any individual.” On Thursday, the office of the lawyer, Terry Ekl, said he was not representing Mr. Butler in the class-action lawsuit.

Two people who answered the telephone at Mr. Butler’s club on Thursday said the couple was not there, and the Butlers did not reply to emails. It was not clear whether they had a lawyer.

Ms. Mullen said she was never informed of any investigations into the abuse, including those carried out by the state Department of Children and Family Services and by U.S.A. Volleyball.

In the 72-page lawsuit, Mr. Butler is described as “the most powerful coach in youth volleyball,” with the ability to place athletes at top college programs.

“For over three decades, Rick has used his position of power to sexually abuse no fewer than six underage teenage girls, and likely many more,” the lawsuit says.

The women who have accused Mr. Butler are not plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which details their accounts. One described alleged sexual abuse and rape by Mr. Butler starting when she was 16, in the early 1980s, during team trips, in a hotel, and in a train bathroom. Another accused Mr. Butler of sexually abusing her in 1986, when she was 16, during a team trip to Japan, and raping her in a hotel room when they returned. The lawsuit also claims that he assaulted the teenagers in the weight room of a gym, his car and his apartment.

Mr. Butler “set up an environment of dependency and fear” by threatening to derail the teenagers’ athletic careers if they did not accede to his demands, the lawsuit claims. Ms. Butler is accused of harassing the women on social media and with a phone call to keep them quiet.

In 1995, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigated Mr. Butler, according to the lawsuit, and determined that “credible evidence supported an indicated report of abuse.” An administrative law judge later concluded that Mr. Butler “had sexual relationships with at least three players.”

Had parents known “that a child sexual predator would coach their teenage daughters,” the lawsuit says, “they never would have given money to defendants and never would have sent their girls to Sports Performance.”

In response to the Sun-Times report, U.S.A. Volleyball announced in January that it would permanently bar Mr. Butler. On Feb. 9, the Amateur Athletic Union, which promotes and develops amateur sports in the United States, said it had permanently disqualified Mr. Butler from its activities.

The lawsuit comes at a time when the sports world has been shaken by cases of sexual abuse against young athletes. In hearings in Michigan in January, dozens of young women and teenagers described abuse by Lawrence G. Nassar, the former doctor for U.S.A. Gymnastics, who also ran a clinic at Michigan State University.

Dr. Nassar received several lengthy prison sentences, including one of 40 to 175 years, and the case prompted investigations and a shake-up at U.S.A. Gymnastics and Michigan State.

The lawsuit in Illinois claims an M.S.U. coach had helped Mr. Butler identify recruits and took an “active role” in discouraging his alleged victims from speaking out.

The lawsuit also included an excerpt from a document it says Ms. Butler published online last month, and which is no longer available, in which Mr. Butler said the 1980s were a “different time and era in the sport of volleyball and life in general” and that he “could have used better judgment.”

Jay Edelson, Ms. Mullen’s lawyer, said on Thursday that his law firm would donate the fees from any award in the case to charity. “We will not profit from this,” he said.

A full copy of the complaint is shown below for your convenience:

Editor’s note on the Sports Performance Class Action Lawsuit:

This piece is written about the recent Sports Performance Lawsuit. If you are considered eligible to be among the class of consumers described in the class action, you may eventually be able to participate in receiving any compensation the court may award.

If you believe Sports Performances actions have affected you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’d be happy to help you take a step in the right direction to fight this issue and join the class action. Please send an email to Outreach@ConsiderTheConsumer.com, find us on Twitter or Facebook, or even connect with us directly on our website! We look forward to hearing from you all.

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