Mom Says Skater’s Molestation Was Obvious

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — A mother sued the U.S. Figure Skating Association and a Los Angeles-area ice rink, claiming they let a coach molest her 9-year-old daughter despite obvious signs of trouble.
     The mother, Anna G., also sued the coach, Donald James Vincent, who was convicted in 2014 of 10 felony counts of abusing the girl and a teenage boy, and sentenced to 98 years in prison.
     In addition to the Figure Skating Association, Anna G. sued the Paramount Iceland Skating Rink, where Vincent coached, and Darlene Sparks, the rink’s director of programs.
     The mother calls her daughter Annie in the June 21 complaint in Superior Court, but that is not her real name. She says the defendants “had it within their power and control to act in a timely manner and prevent Annie’s suffering at Vincent’s hand. They carry the moral blame for Vincent’s egregious acts.”
     Reached at the rink, Sparks said she would not comment on the lawsuit.
     When she was 6 years old, Annie wanted to be a professional figure skater, her mom says. When she was 7, Vincent became her coach.
     When she was 8, he insisted that he home-school her in his house. He began molesting her soon after her ninth birthday.
     In November 2011 he forcibly undressed and fondled her or made her shower with him. One time, after accidentally knocking her unconscious, he raped her “and held her down as she struggled to free herself and repeatedly screamed for him to stop,” according to the complaint, which details other instances of gross sexual abuse.
     He also emotionally abused the girl, calling her a “bitch,” and telling her her father was “stupid” and “an asshole.”
     He “made sure that Annie lived in fear of him” by threatening to report her parents to immigration authorities if she told them what he was doing, the mother says.
     She says she learned of the sexual assaults more than a year later, in January 2013, after another victim reported Vincent’s abuse.
     The mother claims all the other defendants had good reason to be suspicious of Vincent long before he met little Annie.
     “Since Vincent first arrived at Iceland, Sparks had been documenting incidents relating to his inappropriate behavior with minor students,” the complaint says. Although she received “numerous complaints” about his misconduct, “for several years [she] did nothing to protect the minor-aged skaters he coached.”
     When he took on Annie as a student, Sparks heard questions about Vincent’s behavior with her, too, including “holding her hand in public” and “reaching down inside her pants to insert tailbone crash pads,” the mother says.
     In December 2011, after consulting with its lawyers and insurers, the ice rink had Sparks drop Vincent as a coach, but she “never alerted or even discussed with Annie’s parents the potential problem relating to Vincent’s inappropriate conduct and sexual abuse,” according to the complaint.
     Nor did she reach out to them after Vincent was arrested in January 2013, according to the lawsuit. She waited until they next came in for practice to suggest they “ask Annie if Vincent had ever crossed any boundaries with her. This was the first time Sparks had ever discussed Vincent with [Annie’s mother],” the complaint states.
     Annie then told her parents and authorities what had happened. Then she cut herself, spent a week in hospital and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder. She was in therapy from February 2013 until November 2015, when her crime-victim assistance from the state ran out, her mother says.
     The family seeks punitive damages for negligence, Penal Code violations, fraud, false imprisonment, infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, sexual battery and other charges.
     The family’s attorneys, Susan Abitanta, with Herzog, Yuhas, Ehrlich & Ardell, and Stephen Glick, both of Los Angeles, could not be reached for comment after hours Wednesday.

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