Sex assault victim gets $1.5 million in Oak Harbor pool lawsuit
June 6, 2012
A past member of the Aquajets swim team who was sexually assaulted by a former swim coach in the 1990s won a $1.5 million settlement from North Whidbey Park and Recreation District.
In addition, another alleged victim has filed a lawsuit and a third has hired an attorney.
“My sense is that other girls will be coming forward,” said Lincoln Beauregard, a Tacoma attorney who is representing the victims alongside lawyers Jay Krulewitch and Michael Kolker.
The women, who were young girls at the time of the abuse, claim they were sexually assaulted by Andrew “Andy” King in the 1990s. King was the swim coach and the aquatics director at Oak Harbor’s John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool, which is owned and operated by North Whidbey Park and Recreation District.
King is currently serving 40 years in a California prison after pleading no contest to 20 child molestation charges. Detectives in San Jose uncovered during a 2009 investigation that King is a serial pedophile who’s raped and molested dozens of girls while coaching swimming over a 30-year career.
In Oak Harbor, King started molesting a promising young swimmer in 1994, when the girl was just 12 years old. The abuse continued until 1997, when King mysteriously disappeared right before the park and recreation board was scheduled to discuss complaints about his inappropriate behavior with young female swimmers.
The girl reported the abuse to police in 2000. Teri Gardner, then a detective with the Oak Harbor Police, investigated the allegations, but she and the chief criminal prosecutor felt there was not enough evidence to charge King.
By then, King was coaching in California and had moved on to new victims.
Krulewitch said the police, the prosecutors and officials at the park district “missed the boat” by not doing anything, despite obvious signs. King would massage the little girls, do “weigh ins” with them in private, have them sit on his lap, buy them roses, invite them over at his house and take them on out-of-town “dates.”
King was “a master manipulator” who convinced everyone that the victim was a bad girl and shouldn’t be believed, Krulewitch said.“She was courageous for coming forward in 2000 and she was courageous in bringing the lawsuit,” he said. “The settlement was really a vindication for her and all the girls he abused in Oak Harbor and elsewhere.”
It’s unclear how the lawsuits will affect the finances of the district, which is insured by Enduris. Harvey Prosser, a longtime elected commission for the district, was reached by phone Tuesday, but would not discuss whether taxpayer funds will be used in the settlement.
“I think it’s confidential and I’m not going to tell you, so cross me off your list,” he said before hanging up.
The attorney for the park district and a spokesperson for the insurance company did not return calls for comment.
Krulewitch said the district was liable for the damages because officials “knew or should have known” that the abuse was occurring. Not only were signs ignored, he said, but the district didn’t do a responsible background check before “jumping” to hire King, an experienced USA Swim coach.
“We believe that if they looked into his background, they never would have brought him to Oak Harbor,” he said, referring to allegations that King had molested at least one girl before coming to Oak Harbor.
In addition, Krulewitch said King had virtually no supervision after he became both the swim coach and the aquatics director.
“It was the perfect system for a master manipulator and serial pedophile,” he said.
The woman’s lawsuit against North Whidbey Park and Recreation was filed in King County Superior Court last year. The lawsuit originally asked for $15 million in damages. The second alleged victim filed a complaint in March and additional lawsuits may be on the way.
Beauregard said his client still struggles with the effects of the abuse, but has a successful career in the insurance industry and is working on an MBA.
“She’s doing well,” he said. “She’s a fighter.”
Whidbey News-Times, By JESSIE STENSLAND