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
In the wake of the Penn State scandal, the victim came forward publicly, and charges were brought. She alleged that Wielgus and other swimming officials knew of the abuse and, even while investigating him, gave him a prominent role at the 2012 Olympics. Last year, Curl, age 63, was sentenced to seven years in prison.
As lawsuits brewed, two freelance reporters on separate coasts began following the swimming sex scandal closely. Tim Joyce in Baltimore began investigating the death of 16-year-old Sarah Burt, who killed herself by walking into traffic after telling her parents her coach had abused her. In California, Irv Muchnick became invested after a girl on his daughter's swim team was twice raped by their coach, Jesse Stovall, when he chaperoned her to a national meet in Orlando. Stovall in 2010 pleaded no contest to a second-degree felony charge of sexual activity with a 16- or 17-year-old.
One day, an aide in California Congressman George Miller's office came across Joyce's reporting and brought it to the congressman's attention. Soon, Miller asked the General Accounting Office, which functions as an investigative arm of Congress, to investigate.
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"The reports and allegations of abuse of student-athletes participating in public and private swim clubs across the country have been disturbing and cannot be ignored," Miller tells New Times. "We need to determine whether USA Swimming is doing all it can to protect the children in its programs; if reporting requirements are being followed; and whether USA Swimming is making appropriate decisions about when to remove a coach who faces allegations." The investigation is still in the information-gathering phase.
Soon, Muchnick and Joyce started to uncover documents made public via Allard's lawsuits that seemed to show the abuse was far more widespread than anyone had imagined. Heretofore-confidential paperwork related to USA Swimming's internal investigations included documents related to the investigation against Pussieldi, which Muchnick posted on his website, concussioninc.net. The site is sometimes overheated in its rhetoric and straddles the line between journalism and activism. It throws around words like "pervert" and calls Pussieldi a "child abuser and pornographer."
"Being independent journalists, Tim and I have the ability to say things in a way that corporate journalists will not," Muchnick says. He says the Pussieldi case illustrates "the depth of the cover-up — it showed that it involves local community leaders and local staff as well as USA Swimming."
The documents uncovered by Muchnick and Joyce prompted New Times to take a fresh look into the scandal and uncover additional records. One swimming insider says that in Fort Lauderdale, city officials and swim leaders were too close. "All those people grew up together, went to the same schools, got drunk together at Elbo Room. The Swimming Hall of Fame generated a lot of hotel rooms, and that's what it's all about. They didn't want a black scar on the Swimming Hall of Fame or the Aquatic Complex because of hotel rooms. Just think of this city being another Penn State." Last year, an inspector general's report found the city broke the law by awarding a $32 million contract to renovate the aquatic complex to one politically connected company without receiving any competing bids.
Recent efforts by New Times to reach Paredes suggest he is not interested in discussing the incident today.
A Brazilian swimmer who lived in Pussieldi's house around the same time as Paredes says "I never had any issues" with Pussieldi and "actually he helped me out quite a bit, like with getting a scholarship in college."
Pussieldi went on to coach swimming at Pine Crest and St. Thomas Aquinas high schools before coaching a competitive swim team called the Davie Nadadores.
In 2012, an alarmed parent filed a complaint with USA Swimming alleging that he'd seen Pussieldi "rubbing the chests, stomachs, backs, and shoulders of athletes, as well as rubbing the inner thigh of a male athlete while this athlete was in his swimming suit." In a letter last year, USA Swimming reminded Pussieldi of the code of conduct — including one statute that expressly prohibits rubdowns and massages by coaches — but stated that "USA Swimming is not moving forward with any kind of formal investigation."
Also last year, on January 28, 2013, Pussieldi was issued a notice to appear on a charge of cruelty to animals for leaving a Great Dane without food and shelter and "dehydrated to the point that its eyes were sunken in," court records show. The dog had "sores" and "insect bites." Ultimately, the charges were dropped.
Pussieldi left the Davie Nadadores last July, as he was facing $17,000 in fines for 355 violations while working with Gold Coast Swimming. The board of directors found that Pussieldi "with intent to conceal and defraud" used ineligible swimmers to win swim meets. In July, he moved back to his native Brazil and has found work as a television commentator. He reported from the Olympics in Sochi.
His lawyer, Weinberg, described the rehashed allegations as "a fantasy" and said he intends to sue Muchnick for defamation and invasion of privacy, though he did say it depends on whether "Mr. Pussieldi finances [a lawsuit]."
Muchnick, meanwhile, has publicly pressured Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to have law enforcement authorities reopen the 2004 allegations against Pussieldi. Her spokesperson says that they "contacted the City of Fort Lauderdale Police Department to ensure they were aware of the allegations against Mr. Pussieldi" but that the department said the case "was now closed and in the department's opinion did not warrant a reopening." Fort Lauderdale Police spokesperson DeAnna Greenlaw says police are reexamining the case and attempting to reinterview alleged victims.