Saying the court would “err on the side of the sun,” Georgia Judge Ronald K. Thompson has granted the Indianapolis Star newspaper’s motion to unseal 54 sexual-abuse complaint files and 12 deposition transcripts related to a lawsuit filed by former gymnast Kelly Cutright against USA Gymnastics, the sport’s national governing body.
The Star, not a party to the lawsuit, filed a motion to intervene after it investigated allegations that USA Gymnastics executives perpetually failed to forward sexual-abuse allegations made by gymnasts to law enforcement authorities.
According to the Star, USA Gymnastics disregarded sexual-abuse complaints unless they were signed by the alleged victim or victim’s family and ignored any reports of alleged sexual-abuse filed by third parties.
USA Gymnastics vehemently opposed the newspaper’s motion, arguing that the Star did not have a right to intervene in the lawsuit under Georgia law, that there was no public interest in releasing the information, and that the privacy of its members and coaches would be violated irrevocably if the records were unsealed.
Judge Thompson disagreed with USA Gymnastics, however, ruling that all of the information “is of public interest” and that the court would “err on the side of the sun.”
Cutright alleged that USA Gymnastics was negligent because it ignored four previous sexual-abuse complaints about her coach, which resulted in him abusing Cutright in 1999. Cutright supported the Star’s motion to unseal the records.
Judge Thompson said he will review the complaint files and depositions prior to unsealing them to ensure that sensitive information about alleged victims or their families is not inadvertently produced. Additionally, he said that victim names, medical records, and names of coaches who were not convicted of a crime also will be redacted to protect the privacy of innocent parties.
The records are scheduled to be unsealed by September 30, 2016. USA Gymnastics has indicated that it intends to appeal Judge Thompson’s ruling, which could delay or prevent their release.