Entertainment & Sports Law

Prominent Swim Coach Faces Hearing re 1989 Settlement Over Claimed Relationship With Young Teen

In the latest example of an institution revisiting claimed long-ago child sex-abuse that, in retrospect, may not have been handled optimally, USA Swimming has sought an emergency disciplinary hearing. It concerns a prominent Washington, D.C.-area coach who reportedly agreed to a $150,000 structured settlement in 1989 that required a young woman and her parents to keep quiet about his alleged former relationship with her, beginning in 1983 when he was 33 and she was 13.

The planned hearing follows what the newspaper describes as “a handful of lawsuits filed in recent years against USA Swimming” by young athletes alleging abuse by adult coaches, reports the Washington Post in a lengthy article. In response to the litigation, USA Swimming has mandated background checks, developed an awareness program and requires members to report inappropriate activity.

The coach who is the focus of the emergency hearing, Rick Curl, who is now 62, has taken a leave of absence from the Curl-Burke Swim Club. The newspaper says it has reviewed a copy of the 1989 settlement agreement.

Curl declined to comment when contacted by the newspaper. However, a letter posted online after the article was published says “Curl-Burke Swim Club takes very seriously the health and well being of your children that swim for our Club,” and calls the Post article “painful for our Club and myself personally.”

His claimed victim was Kelley Davies, who is now known as Kelley Currin. In on-the-record comments to the Post, she said she believed as a teenager that she was in love with Curl and was devastated when he ceased all contact with her after her parents found out, by reading her diary, about the inappropriate relationship as she was about to head out to college. Another swimmer at the Curl-Burke club recalled being told in 1988 by Currin that she expected to get married to Curl when she grew up.

Currin, who is 43, told the Post in an interview last week that her parents got advice from their lawyer, who spoke to a local state’s attorney, that trying to pursue a criminal case against the coach likely would not result in more than a slap on the wrist, if any conviction resulted. So they agreed to a confidential civil settlement, which she now regrets.

She said she was afraid to speak up earlier, because of the confidentiality provisions in the settlement agreement, but is now doing so regardless.

“I was stifled for 23 years from saying anything because I signed a piece of paper when I was 19,” she said. “Now, I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I’m done being quiet about it. . . . It was a crime, what happened.”

As the Post article details, such incidents were handled differently back in the 1980s.

Bill Bullough, who founded Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club, says the claimed victim told him after her sexual relationship with Curl ended, apparently at some point in the late 1980s when she was a college student. But he didn’t see it as his business to inform others.

“She wasn’t asking for help from us. It was like, ‘Hey, this is behind me; I’d like to keep it behind me.’ . . . She hadn’t gone public. It didn’t sound like she wanted to deal with it [publicly],” he told the Post. “Out of respect for her, we didn’t tell anybody.”

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Do Same-Day Convictions of Ex-Penn State Asst. Coach and Catholic Church Official Signify a New Era?”

ABAJournal.com: “Freeh’s Scathing Report an Unusual ‘Road Map’ to Litigation Against Penn State, Lawyers Say”

ABAJournal.com: “Penn State Avoids NCAA ‘Death Penalty,’ Is Fined $60M, Faces More Sanctions re Child Sex-Abuse Case”

ABAJournal.com: “No Contempt Charge Against Sex Assault Victim Whose Tweets Revealed Names of Juvenile Defendants”

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