$14 Million Settlement for Water Polo Players Who Accused Coach of Abuse

Twelve feminine water polo gamers in California who’ve accused their former coach of sexually abusing them after they had been minors have reached a settlement of almost $14 million in a lawsuit they introduced in opposition to two organizations they are saying failed to guard them.

The gamers sued USA Water Polo, which sanctions native golf equipment within the sport, and International Water Polo Club, a membership in Los Alamitos, a metropolis in Orange County, Calif., that was led by the coach, Bahram Hojreh.

In the lawsuit, the 12 gamers stated that from 2012 via 2017, Mr. Hojreh abused them throughout what had been speculated to be one-on-one teaching classes within the water. During these classes, the gamers contend, he grabbed their breasts and reached underneath their bathing fits and sexually assaulted them, based on the lawsuit. Mr. Hojreh instructed the gamers that they wanted to battle him off, the gamers stated, and that what he was doing was exhibiting them strategies they must take care of whereas taking part in in school.

Mr. Hojreh, 45, additionally faces almost three dozen felony fees in reference to the allegations. He has pleaded not responsible to all fees.

The $13.85 million settlement within the civil case was filed in Orange County Superior Court on Friday, based on Morgan Stewart, a lawyer representing 11 of the plaintiffs. Money for the settlement will probably be paid by the insurance coverage firm that represents each USA Water Polo and International Water Polo Club, he stated.

In a press release on Monday, Christopher Ramsey, chief government for USA Water Polo, stated, “We have heard the plaintiffs’ testimony, and their allegations are heartbreaking.” He stated he hoped the settlement “allows them to begin a new chapter in their lives.”

An e-mail message despatched to the International Water Polo Club on Monday night time was answered by Mark Hojreh, who recognized himself as the previous coach’s brother and one of his private attorneys. Mr. Hojreh stated his brother had all the time denied the allegations however added, “I cannot go into the details of the evidence that would prove his innocence.” He additionally stated the insurance coverage firm agreed to the settlement with out the consent of the International Water Polo Club.

Mr. Stewart stated in an interview on Monday that the lawsuit highlighted the necessity for systemic change in how the game was ruled. USA Water Polo, he stated, collects charges and membership memberships from the golf equipment they sanction, “but then they refuse to supervise and they refuse to really train in any meaningful manner these club teams and their president.” That scenario “creates an unreasonable risk to minors participating in club programs,” Mr. Stewart stated. “You’re going to create an environment that might be ripe for sexual abuse.”

Mr. Hojreh additionally coached water polo at colleges within the cities of Irvine and Anaheim; Mr. Stewart stated civil lawsuits in opposition to the faculties stemming from Mr. Hojreh’s conduct there have been nonetheless pending.

The 34 felony fees that Mr. Hojreh is going through in Orange County stemming from the allegations made by the 12 gamers in his membership embrace 9 counts of sexual battery involving an unconscious individual and one rely of performing a lewd or lascivious act with a baby underneath 14.

John D. Barnett, Mr. Hojreh’s lawyer within the felony case, declined on Monday to touch upon the settlement.

Credit…Rose Palmisano/The Orange County Register, through Associated Press

The plaintiffs had been all members of Mr. Hojreh’s membership. The abuse occurred between 2012 and 2017, when the gamers had been minors — some as younger as 13 or 14, Mr. Stewart stated. In 2017, allegations surfaced that gamers within the membership had been assaulting opponents throughout matches — deploying the maneuvers that Mr. Hojreh had demonstrated on them, based on Mr. Stewart.

USA Water Polo stated it first realized of the allegations in opposition to Mr. Hojreh in January 2018. That is when the group was contacted by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, the unbiased watchdog created collectively by Congress and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to analyze sexual abuse allegations within the Olympic sports activities. “Upon being notified by the Center, U.S.A.W.P. immediately suspended Mr. Hojreh’s membership,” USA Water Polo stated in a press release.

Mr. Stewart stated Mr. Hojreh offered himself to gamers and their dad and mom as a significant determine on the earth of water polo. That notion was instrumental to his abusive conduct, based on Mr. Stewart. Mr. Hojreh instructed his gamers that they needed to endure the sexual assault with the intention to play at the next stage, Mr. Stewart stated. “And that’s how he kept them silent for a number of years, by basically threatening their future careers.”

The settlement comes at a time when sports activities coaches and directors have more and more been referred to as out for abusive conduct. In 2018, Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar, the previous sports activities drugs physician for U.S.A. Gymnastics and Michigan State University, was sentenced to 40 years to 125 years in jail for sexually assaulting gymnasts in his care. That case finally led to fees of human trafficking and sexual assault being filed in 2021 in opposition to a coach of the 2012 ladies’s Olympic group, John Geddert, who killed himself a short while later. And in 2020, the president of the French Federation of Ice Sports, Didier Gailhaguet, resigned after a number of underage determine skaters accused their coaches of rape and sexual abuse.

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