A former member of the USA National Figure Skating Team has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Figure Skating Association, two Los Angeles County ice skating facilities and a coach who was convicted of sexual abuse in 2014, the firm representing the plaintiff announced Thursday.
The coach, Donald Vincent, has been serving a sentence of 98 years and eight months to life in prison, according to a statement from Manly, Stewart & Finaldi. He was convicted of felonies including forcible lewd acts upon a child and oral copulation or sexual penetration with a child under 10, prosecutors said.
His two victims — a male and female student — include the now 22-year-old plaintiff, identified in the new lawsuit as John S. Doe, according to a statement from Manly, Stewart & Finaldi.
Vincent had trained youth ice skaters for nearly a decade in Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange counties. Authorities said the investigation began after one of the victims went to authorities in 2013. A second student then came forward.
Manly, Stewart & Finaldi said the U.S. Figure Skating Association, Paramount Iceland in Paramount and Glacial Garden Skating Arena in Lakewood concealed Vincent's actions from authorities and the parents of the victim, who was 11 years old when the abuse started. He had been training with the coach since age 7.
An attorney working on the case, Jane Reilley, told KTLA Vincent preyed on the young boy's dreams of achieving Olympic gold.
“You’re talking about an individual who gives up their childhood for this Olympics dream, and places all of their trust and all of their efforts in this individual who promises to make them great,” she said.
The boy slept over at the coach's home two to three days a week under the guise of making it easier for him to focus on training, Manly, Stewart & Finaldi said.
"The true purpose, however, was for Vincent to begin sexually touching, fondling, and abusing the victim," a statement from the law firm said.
The abuse continued from 2007 to 2011, according to Manly, Stewart & Finaldi.
The complaint alleged that the U.S. Figure Skating Association received information about Vincent's inappropriate conduct with other minors and did not report him to authorities.
The suit also named Darlene Sparks, the figure skating director at Paramount Iceland, as a defendant — saying she had been aware of "something inappropriate or odd" between the boy and Vincent but did not alert authorities.
Sparks also allegedly received reports from guardians of other students victimized by the coach and took no action.
Without naming names, Reilley said ice rink employees at one point caught Vincent alone in a dark, locked room with the young boy wrapped around his legs.
“It was witnessed by the employees of these rinks," Reilley said. "They saw him putting things down the pants of minor children, minor children were saying, ‘This person is touching me inappropriately.’ None of that was ever reported to law enforcement.”
Before he was incarcerated, Vincent worked at seven different rinks across Southern California, according to Reilley.
“It just goes to show that these organizations only care about money and medals and exploiting these children for their talent rather than protecting them,” she said.
The plaintiff sought attorneys fees from Vincent, who's serving time at a California Department of Corrections facility in Riverside County, the complaint said.
Vince Finaldi, the plaintiff's attorney, called the case another example of "the culture of child abuse" in Olympics sports programs.
"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," Finaldi said in a statement. "Instead, he had to stop competing in the sport he loved because of the physical and emotional damage allegedly done to him by his coach... The US Figure Skating Association and the ice rinks where Vincent worked ignored complaints against him for years. If they had done their legal duty years ago and reported Vincent to the police, our client and other children could have been protected from this monster.”
Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, an Irvine-based law firm, said it represented more than 140 victims of former U.S. Olympic Women's Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison in February after 150 women and girls testified that he sexually abused them during a span of 20 years.