ORLANDO, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The law firm of Weil Quaranta has filed a suit against the Amateur Athletic Union for violating its own regulations by allowing Rick Butler, a prominent coach and alleged sexual predator, to coach a girl’s volleyball team at last week’s AAU national volleyball championships in Orlando.
Miami Attorney Ronald Weil of the Weil Quaranta law firm in Miami and Los Angeles filed a 10-page suit late last week in Orange County Circuit Court, seeking compensatory damages and relief for Sarah Powers-Barnhard, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., a former player for Butler and a fellow coach at the 43rd AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships at the Orlando Convention Center last weekend.
The suit alleges that she was one of several victims of Butler’s while he was her coach from 1982 to 1984. She went on to a distinguished career as a player and coach, but the suit says she has been treated for depression as a direct result of Butler’s abuse.
The suit says: “To this day, despite knowing that Butler sexually molested Plaintiff and other minor girls who were volleyball players on his teams, the AAU still allows Butler to coach junior girls' volleyball teams where he has unsupervised contact with and power over minor girls.”
The suit says: “Plaintiff is unable to shepherd her team to a national title without having to see and/or be in contact with Butler — her sexual abuser.”
Further, the suit says, in 1995 Butler was banned from USA Volleyball-sanctioned or sponsored events, though he was readmitted to serve in a restricted administrative capacity five years later. The Team USA Girls’ National Volleyball Championship is taking place in Indianapolis through Sunday, July 3, where he is performing supervisory duties but not coaching.
The two-count suit alleges violation of Florida’s Unfair Trade and Deceptive Practices Act, and negligence.
Sarah Powers-Barnhard v. Amateur Athletic Union of the United States, 9th Judicial Circuit, Orange County, Fla., Case No. 43146151
The suit cites the AAU’s Children Protection Handbook barring membership to people accused of sexual misconduct. The lawsuit cites the AAU’s handbook’s statement that, “an imbalance of power is always assumed between a coach and an athlete.” The suit says the AAU, “deceptively promotes the organization’s policy to deny participation in the AAU to any individual for whom there is reasonable cause to believe that they engaged in sexual misconduct.”
The AAU is based in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., near the site of this year’s tournament at the Orlando Convention Center and ESPN.
The lawsuit says: “Butler was able, by virtue of his unique authority and position as one of the leading volleyball coaches in the United States, to identify vulnerable victims to sexually abuse; to manipulate his authority to procure compliance with his sexual demands from his victims; to induce victims to continue to allow the abuse; and to coerce his victims to not report the sexual abuse to any other persons or authorities. Butler is now able to re-inflict those injuries on Plaintiff at each tournament.”
Says co-counsel Marci Hamilton, who is also Resident Senior Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Robert A. Fox Leadership Program: “This is another region where children are ignored while powerful men serve their own interests and where female athletes have been coming forward slowly. It’s not easy to do. I applaud Sarah for her strength and her courage.”
Says Weil in a separate demand letter delivered to the AAU: “We remain baffled as to how this set of circumstances has come to be: a coach having been found through due process to have molested children is now competing against his victims in AAU sanctioned events. None of these facts were buried but rather broadly publicized in 1995 and again in 2015.”
The letter continues: “It is further shocking that Sarah must be on the constant lookout at every tournament with her team to protect herself from seeing the man who sexually assaulted her as a child.”