Longtime US figure skating coach accused of sexual abuse in new lawsuit
SAN DIEGO — A figure skater has filed a lawsuit accusing longtime US Figure Skating coach Richard Callaghan of sexually abusing him for approximately two years, beginning when he was about 14.
The lawsuit, filed in San Diego court, alleges Callaghan sexually molested figure skater Adam Schmidt repeatedly between 1999 and 2001, both while coaching the then-teen and later at a competition in San Diego. Schmidt, now 34, is a former member of the US National Figure Skating Team, his lawyers said.
The abuse continued, the lawsuit says, despite the fact a 1999 New York Times article revealed allegations of sexual misconduct by Callaghan with another figure skater. The coach remained “in good-standing” with the US Figure Skating Association, which was aware of allegation by the alleged victim, but dismissed it, the lawsuit alleges.
Callaghan was also an employee at an ice skating rink in Rochester, Michigan, the lawsuit says, where he was allowed to continue coaching minors, and where he allegedly abused Schmidt.
“While performing these duties, (Callaghan) violated his role as a coach, sexually violated the Plaintiff, and used his position of authority and power over the Plaintiff,” the lawsuit alleges.
The US Figure Skating Association and a Michigan ice skating center are also identified as defendants in the lawsuit. Additional defendants are unknown individuals and corporations.
The lawsuit claims that as a result of the abuse, Schmidt suffered anxiety, depression, fear, grief and stress. He suffered a mental breakdown and was subsequently hospitalized in January 2017, the lawsuit says, when he first shared his account of sexual abuse with a mental health professional.
“Our client is an extremely talented young athlete who dreamed of nothing more than to stand on an Olympic podium and hear our National Anthem,” John Manly, Schmidt’s attorney, said in a news release. “Instead, he had to stop competing in the sport he loved because of the sexual, physical and emotional damage done to him by his coach, Richard Callaghan.”
The lawsuit seeks damages on 10 counts, including alleged sexual battery and assault by Callaghan, and negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress on the part of all defendants.
Referring to the US Figure Skating Association and ice rinks where Callaghan worked, Manly said, “If they had done their legal duty in 1999 and reported Callaghan to the police, our client and other children could have been protected from this monster.”
Dean Groulx, an attorney for Callaghan, told CNN in a statement that he had not received the lawsuit and was unaware of Schmidt’s allegations.
“However,” Groulx said, “Richard Callaghan denies all wrongdoing at any time. We will have no further comment at this time.”
US Figure Skating declined to comment on the pending litigation in a statement, but said it “fully supports all victims of sexual abuse and misconduct and encourages anyone who has been abused or suspects abuse or misconduct to immediately report it to local law enforcement, the U.S. Center for SafeSport or U.S. Figure Skating.”
The Rochester ice skating facility said in a statement the claims in the lawsuit are “very serious” and “deserve a thorough investigation.” The facility said it was first notified of the claims by news outlets and requests for comment from journalists and had yet to receive the lawsuit.
“Given the seriousness of these claims, a comprehensive investigation is in order,” it said, declining further comment.
Callaghan coached notable figure skaters such as 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski and 1996 world champion Todd Eldredge.
He was suspended from US Figure Skating in March 2018 by the US Center for SafeSport, which is the US Olympic Committee agency that has exclusive jurisdiction over allegations of sexual misconduct.
That suspension was due to an accusation by Craig Maurizi, who initially said in a 1999 complaint to US Figure Skating that Callaghan had made sexual advances toward him as early as 1976, when Maurizi was 13. But that complaint went nowhere.
Callaghan sued the center following the 2018 suspension alleging breach of contract, but the case was dismissed.
The current lawsuit points out that Callaghan’s suspension only took place “upon the amateur athletic sports community being publicly examined for its systemic mishandling of sexual abuse allegations in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal at USA Gymnastics.”