‘Sick and appalled,’ girl, 15, parents retain attorney in case involving gymnastics coach, child porn

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James Kivisto

RACINE COUNTY -- An attorney at the Milwaukee law firm Habush Habush & Rottier has been retained by a girl, 15, and her parents in the case involving a Racine County gymnastics coach charged with possession of child pornography. They're preparing for a potential civil lawsuit against James Kivisto and USA Gymnastics.

According to a statement from the law firm, Timothy Trecek's client "was coached by James Kivisto for more than a year, and is sickened and appalled by this complete breach of trust by his perverted actions.”

Trecek said the following in the statement:

“This sick situation is yet another black eye for USA Gymnastics, which had certified Wind Lake Gymnastics Center for safety and for passing their ‘background check.’ This alleged certification occurred even though Kivisto had been arrested in 1999 for possession of child pornography. Parents relied on the certification of USA Gymnastics. The certification by USA Gymnastics gave Kivisto an aura of legitimacy and allowed unsuspecting young girls to be preyed upon by a sick pervert.”

Trecek said the girl took lessons at Kivisto's gymnastics facility for a year-and-a-half, but stopped for unrelated reasons in 2017.

Timothy Trecek

"She could have been videotaped in the bathroom, changing into her outfits, going to the bathroom. She liked him as a coach," said Trecek.

Trecek said her trust has been shattered. He said he expects other families to join this potential civil lawsuit.

"He's had this place for 11 years. He could have been videotaping for 11 years. Where we come into it is, we want to get compensation for the victims. Every four years, (USA Gymnastics is) to check up on the safety of the facility and every two years they are to do a background check on him. It just doesn't make sense that an adult who possesses child pornography wouldn't be charged and convicted (in 1999)," said Trecek.

Trecek's young client is now in counseling.

USA Gymnastics issued this statement:

"After learning about the arrest of James Kivisto, USA Gymnastics reported the information to the U.S. Center for Safe Sport. Pending the outcome of the report to the Center, USA Gymnastics has suspended the membership of both Mr. Kivisto, under the interim measures in Article 10.5 of the Bylaws, and the club, in accordance with Article 10.13.  USA Gymnastics cannot comment further unless an action taken involves a public result, such as being placed on the list of individuals permanently ineligible for membership."

Wind Lake Gymnastics Center

On Thursday, March 15, the day James Kivisto was formally charged, Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said his office had already fielded 150 phone calls from concerned parents. A hotline was set up for parents with concerns, as Sheriff Schmaling announced Kivisto had kept a ledger that included the names of 803 children.

Kivisto is the owner of a Wind Lake gymnastics facility -- accused of placing hidden cameras in his facility and being in possession of child pornography. Kivisto was arrested on March 13, and prosecutors say he admitted to recording juveniles while they changed on "multiple occasions."

Investigators have asked parents with children who attend this facility to contact investigators, and the hotline has been set up to assist with that process. That hotline is 262-636-3990.

Wind Lake Gymnastics Center

Kivisto, 49, of Wind Lake faces 10 counts of possession of child pornography.

"We are going to expose every aspect of this disgusting man's character," said Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling.

According to a criminal complaint, on March 12, investigators with the Racine County Sheriff's Office began looking into a report that there was a camera placed in a bathroom at the Wind Lake Gymnastics Center on S. Loomis Rd. near Racine Ave. The individual who found the camera told law enforcement he took it home and watched video from the camera that showed Kivisto setting it up. The individual also reported seeing a high school aged girl adjusting her hair in a mirror, before walking off camera and returning with a different outfit on. The individual said he stopped watching and contacted law enforcement.

Kivisto was interviewed by investigators, and prosecutors say he admitted to placing the camera in the bathroom. He indicated he "looks through all the video from the camera and saves the videos he is attracted to, and deletes those he is not attracted to." He said "because he has worked with kids for such a long time, he is a good judge on how old a child might be just by looking at them."

He admitted to being "attracted to young females," and told investigators 12 years old is the youngest he's attracted to, according to the complaint.

His computer was searched, and prosecutors say a large number of photos and video of young children getting dressed and undressed were discovered. Additionally, investigators found a "large number of nude photos and videos of child pornography."

James Kivisto

"Anyone that walked into that washroom and used it -- anyone who changed their clothing in that room where he had those cameras -- he had the ability to view," said Schmaling.

Schmaling said this could've been prevented had Kivisto been put behind bars nearly two decades ago.

"Back in 1999, he was arrested by the Glendale Police Department for possession of child pornography," said Schmaling.

Christopher Schmaling

He was never charged by the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office for that incident despite Schmaling saying the FBI was involved in the case.

"My heart goes out to you, " said Schmaling. "We are going to do everything we can to get to the bottom of it."

As it relates to that 1999 arrest, Milwaukee County Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern issued this statement:

"This office routinely charges cases like the matter involving Mr. Kivisto in 1999.  I have no further information about that charging decision from 19 years ago."

Kivisto made his initial appearance in court in this latest case on March 15. Probable cause was found for further proceedings and a preliminary hearing was set for March 21.

Cash bond was set at $150,000 -- and it was ordered that Kivisto cannot have any contact with any minor children unless accompanied by two other adults. He can have no contact with the Wind Lake Gymnastics Center.

Schmaling said at this time, it does not appear Kivisto was distributing the images he allegedly captured on camera.

Wind Lake Gymnastics Center

Kivisto has owned and operated Wind Lake Gymnastics Center for approximately the past 11 years, officials said. Schmaling said Kivisto also lived at the business. Furthermore, he has coached gymnastics since 1987 in both Racine County and Milwaukee County.

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