By Michael E. Miller
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
"I realized he had hidden cameras in the bathrooms and bedroom, so I was not secure anymore," Paredes explained. "And I tried to explain that to my coach at the time, which was Coach Nelson, [but he] didn't believe me. He told me he was going to confront Alex about it, and so I was just by myself and decided to move out."
He continued to swim but avoided Pussieldi.
The day after the fight on the pool deck, though, the 20-year-old resolved to speak up again. He visited the Fort Lauderdale Police station to file a supplemental report. Paredes told police that "Pussieldi was having sex with several of the underage male swimmers and videotaping the sex. Pussieldi also had child pornography on his computer." He "said he found a hidden camera in the A/C vent in the bathroom."
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The young man returned to reiterate his allegations in a taped statement on February 19. The swimmer says he'd found a videotape that showed "three different boys on the tape, having sex with Pussieldi at different times." He guessed the video was made abroad because the teenaged boys were speaking Portuguese. Paredes also "advised of a second videotape that showed him and his roommate... using the bathroom and getting undressed to take a shower." After he found the camera in the vent, he removed its batteries and scratched the lens so it wouldn't work.
More than a month later, on March 22, police detective Jeff Jennings spoke to another alleged victim who says Pussieldi had touched him inappropriately when he was 17. But this swimmer did not want to press charges.
Weeks later, on April 8, police talked to Pussieldi, who denied the accusations. Paredes "was jealous" of Pussieldi's relationship with another swimmer, the coach explained.
And with that, the case was closed. The report makes no mention of any other interviews or a search of the coach's home. It says simply: "Based on this Detective's investigation and the statements given by the parties involved, there is no evidence to prove the allegations. This case will be closed and cleared as unfounded."
But even if police didn't act, swimming authorities could have.
Sources say Nelson met with coaches but downplayed the fight. So another coach went above Nelson's head and complained to City Commissioner Dean Trantalis (who now contends he doesn't remember the incident).
This angered officials of the Fort Lauderdale Swim Team. Internal memos show that on February 18, Stu Marvin, manager of the aquatic complex, wrote that it was important that "all coaches [project] the same position on all matters concerning FLST. Sharing independent points of view can be very detrimental to the organization... The relationship with the city is of utmost importance." He wrote that formal written notice should be given to both Paredes and the coach who stood up for him to express that "their actions are not 'in the best interests of FLST.'"
Some adults wrote letters to the city on Paredes' behalf, while others sided with Pussieldi. One parent said that Pussieldi was "caring, concerned and helpful" and that the alleged victim was "a troubled young man." Another family wrote: "We heard about the swimmer who is causing you all of this trouble. He must be a real jerk!" In a private email, Sun-Sentinel reporter Sharon Robb suggested Pussieldi get a copy of the police report "for your files in case this gets out of hand... Keep in touch and call me when you are reinstated so I can write another story saying you are back coaching."
Paredes, meanwhile, was kicked off the swim team and told to find another club.
On February 24, Paredes wrote to Florida Gold Coast Swimming, which oversees competitive swimming in the state, to ask for a hearing. Jack Nelson retired that October, and USA Swimming assigned investigators, who finally called Paredes in December 2004. The swimmer repeated the claims he had made all year: He had found "a hidden camera in a heating vent." He and another swimmer found videotapes of "themselves... using the bathroom at various times." A supervisor had dismissed their worries, saying the coach "was receiving professional help from a psychiatrist." Paredes said he hadn't kept the VHS tapes and feared "no one would believe him because he had no proof."
In January 2006, almost two years after the assault on the pool deck, USA Swimming's National Review Board found that in regard to the assault, "both petitioner and respondent used poor judgment and acted immaturely and inappropriately. However, a coach must never physically assault a swimmer." Pussieldi was suspended for three months and put on probation for one year.
Oddly, the decision does not address the sexual allegations.
Pussieldi's attorney, Weinberg, says it's because "there was nothing there... The kid had an attorney." If there were any merit to his claim, why wouldn't his attorney have brought the case?
"The Catholic Church got sued for billions," Weinberg taunts. "In today's climate, if any abuse was going on, people would be suing USA Swimming and getting billions in damages."