An Indianapolis attorney filed a civil lawsuit Thursday against USA Swimming, Indiana Swimming and the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township on behalf of the parents of a 14-year-old girl who was sexually abused.
The case involves former swim coach Chris Wheat, whose request that his criminal sentence be shortened was denied last week.
Wheat received a 10-year sentence last year in a plea deal reached after the incidents were discovered in 2009. If the case had gone to trial, Wheat could have been sentenced up to 80 years in prison.
USA Swimming banned Wheat from coaching in the organization for life.
Attorney John Little said USA Swimming "had two opportunities to stop the swim coach before he molested the young female swimmer," and that the organization hasn't gone far enough to address the issue.
"The culture is one that blames the victims for what happened," Little said. "You see them maintaining a culture of victim blaming."
The lawsuit also names the man who hired wheat in 2003, John Diercks, as well as Amanda Cox, the USA Swimming-certified swim coach at West Lafayette's McCutcheon High School.
Little pointed to text messages between Wheat and Cox discussing Wheat's inappropriate relationship with the victim, in which Cox texted, "Mom almost caught us via text one night talkin about where it was headed... went on for three weeks. She got freaked out so we're done for now... she can't keep doin the secret thing."
Records show Cox responded, "So. Ok. Don't freak. It's done. Go on a short vacation!"
Little called for USA Swimming, Indiana Swimming and Lawrence Township school leaders to be fired.
"Chris Wheat operated in a culture in USA Swimming that condones, tolerates, fosters, harbors and hides pedophiles and has for decades," Little said.
The lawsuit claims that there had been other sexual abuse complaints involving Wheat before and after he was hired in 2003.
The family's attorneys said several swimming and school leaders were aware of the complaints but did nothing to address them and equated the situation to the controversy embroiling Penn State.
"It is ironic, sadly, that in the Jerry Sandusky case, the police commissioner
said the culture at Penn State did nothing to stop the abuse, and that is what we have here," Little said. "We have a rotten and sick culture in USA Swimming.
Last week, the parents of the 14-year-old girl said they hope their ordeal will encourage others to step forward.
"We're hopefully helping to send a message to others out there that if they've been victimized, draw strength from this," the girl's father said.
RTV6 will attempt to contact those named in the lawsuit for comment.
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