Jury rules USA Swimming not liable in sexual abuse case

STOCKTON, Calif. — A jury in California has ruled that USA Swimming was not negligent in the case of a former coach who sexually abused a 13-year-old swimmer, although she will receive $1.125 million from two USA Swimming affiliates in a civil lawsuit.

In the criminal case, former Stockton Swim club coach Shunichi Fujishima pleaded guilty to sexually abusing the girl he’d coached and was sentenced to 12 years in prison in October.

At that time, an out-of-court settlement with Stockton Swim Club and Pacific Swimming, which oversees the sport in the Stockton area, was reached in the civil case. The victim’s attorney, Robert Allard, announced the settlement amount Friday, when both he and USA Swimming confirmed that the jury found the sport’s national governing body not responsible in the case.

“USA Swimming is grateful to the jury for their time and consideration of this extremely important matter,” USA Swimming said in a statement. “While the decision correctly identifies who was responsible for this atrocious act, it does not right the wrong, nor should anyone forget that a child was harmed and that everyone needs to continue to do more to ensure a safer environment for our athletes.”

Allard said he was disappointed by the jury’s finding, but considered the settlement a win that he says “exposed USA Swimming’s failures to protect children.”

“We can honestly say that we fought tooth and nail for full justice for a very deserving client for the hell that she has been and will go through as a result of being subjected to unspeakable molestations,” Allard said in a statement.

USA Swimming’s statement called for survivors of abuse to report their cases to law enforcement and to the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

Fujishima has been banned for life by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which means he’s ineligible to coach any Olympic sports in the United States.