Tag Archives: Irvin Muchnick

From top George Gibney in 1988 (left) and in 2019 (right); Irvin Muchnick

Though I have sharply criticised the thoroughness, as well as the lowest-common-denominator quality, of the BBC/Second Captains podcast Where Is George Gibney?, there is no question that this Mark Horgan series succeeded in one significant respect. It has created a space in which other major media outlets can choose, at last, to step up and reexamine the Gibney story, either comprehensively or from the several important angles Horgan consciously ducked.

The biggest breakthrough so far, on the American side, was last month’s coverage in The New York Times (which I reviewed here).

Ed O’Loughlin, a Dublin-based New York Times reporter, became the first mainstream journalist since Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle in 2016 to tackle the global aspect of the protection of Gibney from accountability for more instances of child sexual assault than we’ll ever know.

The New York Times did so by quoting the strong words of federal judge Charles Breyer during my Freedom of Information Act case against the Department of Homeland Security for background material from Gibney’s immigration records.

They whiffed, however, on Judge Breyer’s supportive comment about my hypothesis regarding the role of the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) in engineering the coaching job offer letter for Gibney that enabled his relocation here on a diversity lottery visa. This came shortly after a nepotism-tinged Irish Supreme Court, in 1994, quashed his indictment on 27 counts of illicit carnal knowledge of minors.

Today there is behind-the-scenes drama at ASCA, which is now on its third executive director in 13 months following the retirement of John Leonard, who is perhaps the most pernicious figure in the swimming world’s decades of cover-ups of abusive coaches. Stay tuned for more shortly on the ASCA drama.

Before and after the New York Times story, I have been importuning editors of the Orlando Sentinel to take Gibney coverage to another level. At age 72, Gibney lives in Altamonte Springs, Florida, north of Orlando. And as we know, all politics is local.

In 2010 the Sentinel published fleeting mention of a controversy among Gibney’s neighbours in Orlando, where he then lived and soon lost his home (the reason is not known, but it may well have been part of the universal home mortgage collapses of that period).

The same year – probably not coincidentally – Gibney, holder of permanent resident alien status for a decade and a half at that point – applied unsuccessfully for U.S. citizenship.

He moved into a house in nearby Altamonte Springs with “Brother Pedro” (possibly one of the local Knights of Columbus chapter players who are propping up the elderly Gibney with housing and a job at a hospice).

In 2014 George Diaz, a Sentinel columnist, wrote about the campaign to deny Chuck Wielgus, then the long-time chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s national sport governing body USA Swimming, induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Over a period of years, I pressed Diaz, who advocated for foster children, to write something additionally about the campaign to bring to justice the swimming coach monster in his midst. Diaz never came through before the Sentinel laid him off in 2018.

Most recently, following the conclusion of the podcast series, I pitched Sentinel editor-in-chief Julie Anderson and managing editor Roger Simmons. Anderson and Simmons directed it to Jeff Weiner, whose title is “justice & safety editor.” Weiner expressed interest, but he and his bosses all have fallen silent for more than a month.

What are they waiting for? So many local details from the Horgan podcast and the Times article remain unexplored. Among them: Peter Banks, the Tampa-based swimming coach, formerly a Gibney assistant in Ireland, all but admitted to Horgan that he was the person who brokered the American coaching job offer letter that was attached to Gibney’s original visa – and Banks was, at the time, an ASCA official.

Also: The state attorney’s office in Hillsborough County has told me that the statute of limitations does not bar prosecution of Gibney today for his 1991 rape of a 17-year-old Irish swimmer during a Florida training trip — and this overlays and supplements the question of extraditing Gibney for previous crimes in his native country.

Two Sundays ago, the Sunday Independent’s Maeve Sheahan took a corner of the Gibney saga to a breaking development: the imminent release from Arbour Hill prison, after 27 years, of another legacy abuser Irish swimming coach, Frank McCann (“George Gibney case turns spotlight on double murderer Frank McCann — and his dealings with the teenager he coached,” behind paywall).

The Sunday Independent not only reviewed in depth the narrative of McCann’s murders – by burning down their house – of his wife and their 18-month-old baby. As Sheahan writes, the motive “was to conceal the secret that he fathered a child with an underage girl with special needs whom he coached at his swim club”:

“At the time, the enormity and profound cruelty of his crimes overshadowed his grotesque sexual interference with a vulnerable young girl. He received two life sentences for murdering Esther and Jessica but has never been called to account for his treatment of that young girl in his care.”

But there’s more. As Sheahan’s story points out, McCann also was president of the Leinster Branch of the then-Irish Amateur Swimming Association (now Swim Ireland) when the Gibney scandals broke in the early 1990s. As the 1998 Murphy report would point out, McCann made clear to others in the organisation that exposure of the Gibney horrors would not happen on his watch.

Decorously, the Sunday Independent didn’t publish the exact words of Carol Walsh, the coach who brought the matter to McCann after talking with Gibney’s root victim and whistleblower, Chalkie White. McCann, Walsh said, said he “hoped to fuck it wouldn’t break while he was president” and told Walsh “to back off and not get involved.”

Meanwhile, Johnny Watterson, sports columnist of the Irish Times, who deserves all the credit for breaking the Gibney story nearly 30 years ago at the old Sunday Tribune, returned recently with more Mark Horgan hype: “Where is George Gibney? Podcast Releases New photograph’.

Big deal.

Evin Daly, the Irish-American head of the Florida nonprofit One Child International, has been shadowing Gibney for years. Daly took almost all the contemporary photos of Gibney that have run in the Irish media in the last decade-plus. One of them graces the cover of my ebook The George Gibney Chronicles: What the Hunt For the Most Notorious At-Large Sex Criminal in the History of Global Sports Tells Us About the Sports Establishments and Governments on Two Continents.

Watterson also writes:

“While he is not currently involved with coaching young children, on arrival in the US Gibney did work at a swimming pool in ArvadaColorado.”

Watterson knows better than to parrot this bland language from the New York Times. Gibney was not some maintenance worker swabbing the deck at the Apex Recreation Center. He was a coach on the staff of USA Swimming’s sanctioned North Jeffco age-group team.

Indeed, Watterson is the person who first enlightened me on the fact that officers of the Arvada Police Department, who investigated Gibney in 1995, to no end, following a sexual misconduct complaint, was coaching kids there.

It’s time for the Irish and American media alike to start writing all this in plain English. Enough with the impenetrable code.

Irvin writes at Concussion Inc.

Previously: Irvin Muchnick on Broadsheet

Pics: Getty/Mark Horgan

 

Tonight.

American sports journalist Irvin Muchnick discusses new developments in the George Gibney case.

Yesterday, The Sunday Times reported that Gardai are investigating two new complaints of child sexual abuse against the former Irish Olympic swimming coach now living in America.

The former swimmers ‘living in different countries’ contacted authorities after listening to the Second Captains/BBC Sounds podcast Where Is George Gibney?

Previously: Keep Making Waves

From top: Where Is George Gibney podcast; Deep Deceptions by Justine McCarthy; Irvin Muchnick

The Second Captains/BBC Sounds podcast Where Is George Gibney? managed to stretch its title question, the answer to which was already widely published, across eight episodes, via a contrived stakeout that seems to have been recorded more than a year ago in and around Altamonte Springs, Florida.

The resulting stagily hushed passages had the redundancy of a hat rack in a moose’s den. They then were inserted between interviews with Gibney’s sexual abuse survivors and others – who, in turn and understandably, made the least institutionally connective or radioactive observations. George Gibney, molester and rapist. Very bad guy. Discuss.

The mechanisms of the max scandal, which widened the pool of victims and enabled its temporal length and geographic sustainability, were the cover-ups or lookaway passes by official law enforcement agencies and organized sports.

On the podcast, these villains remained “implied” at best. Most notably, there was not a word about the intricacies of the Irish Supreme Court decision or baffling moves by the Gardaí and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Lending narrative shape and meaning to the roles of those who refused to be interviewed was eschewed. Practitioners of investigative journalism will tell you that it is basic to call out no-commenters. Producer-narrator Mark Horgan didn’t even name them. He seemed to have time only for hermetically sealed infotainment.

Thus, the podcast exposed only a couple of old fools, Swim Ireland board member John Mullins and Irish-American coach Peter Banks. By innuendo-laced reference, there were also digs at a familiar bogeyman, the Knights of Columbus.

It was not noted that Banks had been an executive of the American Swimming Coaches’ Association at the time when, he all but admitted, he arranged a coaching job offer letter to support Gibney’s visa application under the US government’s Donnelly diversity lottery program.

In what is a medium of sound, Gibney’s contemporary voice contributed only expected silence. Yet Horgan, assured listeners, in retrospective voiceovers, that he was “seeing” how his confrontation with the former Irish Olympic swimming coach, in the parking lot of a shopping centre, played out as dramatic and consequential, both elevating the interviewer’s heart rate and causing his target palpable karmic consternation. The former was irrelevant. As for the latter, we have to take Horgan’s word for it.

Where Is George Gibney? will wrap up with two in-studio episodes, either live or live-to-tape, on December 3 and December 10. Many of the most important questions remain not only intriguingly open but shamefully unaddressed…

Where are the American media?

“It is a key ambition of the BBC to get this series on the radar in the US,” Maria Horgan, Mark’s sister and associate producer, told me in January 2019. This goal does not seem to be anywhere near achieved.

That is not entirely the fault of the podcast. When it comes to abuses in youth swimming, the major American media don’t think about what they don’t think about, and also don’t think about what they do think about.

USA Swimming, the national sport governing body under the US Olympic Committee, is under a federal grand jury investigation for financial crimes and abuse cover-ups. But only a handful of American newspapers have reported as much, without follow-through.

No one at all has picked up on the reporting by Concussion Inc. that myriad American government investigations of the swimming establishment, involving multiple Federal Bureau of Investigation field offices, include a live probe of failed citizenship applicant yet rollover green card holder George Gibney. Jane Khodarkovsky, human trafficking finance specialist for the Department of Justice’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, heads up the Gibney investigation.

The Horgan team can’t control what the US media do. However, Horgan alone is responsible for non-existent product on the most serious aspects of Gibney’s American peregrinations, which would have taken global coverage to another level.

Horgan failed to mention, let alone cover in depth, Gibney’s age-group swim club coaching stint in suburban Denver, and disturbing dead-end reports from two local police departments coming out of his more than five years in Colorado.

There, Gibney’s chairmanship of a church charity’s children’s eye clinic mission in Peru – coinciding with the expansion into the Archdiocese of Denver by the abuse-plagued Peruvian Catholic sect Sodalitium Christianae Vitae was not explored.

Where is the full 1991 Florida rape story?

In my listen, the most unseemly failure of the podcast was the half-disclosure of the 1991 incident, during a training trip by the Trojans swimming team to Tampa, Florida, in which Gibney raped a 17-year-old swimmer called “Susan.”

In 2006, RTÉ television’s Prime Time gave Susan what is also, generally, the greatest strength of Where Is George Gibney?: an opportunity for survivors to speak in their own voices. (Watch Susan at around the 6:00 mark in the video here)

Unfortunately, by the time the BBC podcast was being produced, Susan was back in a psychiatric hospital and in no condition to be interviewed. Horgan could have chosen to play the 14-year-old clip of her; podcasts are driven by archival TV and radio nuggets, as well as by fresh content.

It gets worse. The podcast related the full background of Susan’s swimming career, including Gibney’s serial abuse, which also occurred on another trip abroad, in Holland, months prior to the Tampa incident.

But for unknown reasons, BBC / Second Captains omitted the back end of the story. Upon her return to Ireland from the US, Susan discovered she was pregnant. An Irish swimming official plied her with narcotic drugs and accompanied her on a trip to England, where she got an abortion.

We know the back end of the story because Justine McCarthy of The Sunday Times reported all this in 2015. McCarthy called the swimming official “a professional person”. McCarthy called the swimming official “a professional person”. They were a shockingly unethical fixer, whoever they were.

And by the way, where is Justine McCarthy — and everything that flowed from her groundbreaking work?

Where Is George Gibney? featured Irish journalists Johnny Watterson and Paul Kimmage, and without a doubt they were vital chroniclers of the decades-long story. Watterson, an alumnus of Newpark Comprehensive School, where Gibney taught and coached, was haunted by hearing about the horrors suffered by his contemporaries there. Watterson put the resources of his newspaper at the time, the Tribune, on the line to lift the story into credibility and wide circulation.

For her part, McCarthy wrote the definitive book, Deep Deception: Ireland’s Swimming Scandals, which would be cited by a federal judge in the US, Charles R. Breyer, when he ruled in my favour in 2016 in a Freedom of Information Act case to force release by the Department of Homeland Security of records from Gibney’s immigration file.

McCarthy’s reporting, both for her newspaper outlets over the years and in the Deep Deception book, is chock full of the sort of hard information the podcast simply ignored. To wit:

In 1996, “Susan” was one of four women who made fresh allegations against Gibney, including the Florida rape, that were investigated by police in Blackrock. Bizarrely and unfairly, Horgan’s podcast tosses off the line that Susan’s case went nowhere for lack of jurisdiction.

In 1997, Susan reported the incident to the Irish Amateur Swimming Association and the Olympic Council of Ireland, and filed a civil lawsuit against Gibney (by then he was two years into his American odyssey).

In 1998, Susan’s account was part of the Irish government’s Murphy Inquiry into widespread abuses in the country’s swimming programs. The Murphy report was yet another data point the podcast completely blew off.

Some years after that, journalist McCarthy got involved, ultimately prevailing upon her husband, a lawyer, to help represent Susan.

In 2011, Susan lost High Court proceedings against Irish sports bodies, but came to a complicated monetary out-of-court settlement.

In a truly disgusting development in 2012, the Olympic Council and Swim Ireland (successor to the Irish Amateur Swimming Association), claiming reimbursement of costs for defending litigation, clawed back almost all the money for Susan.

In the recent bonus episode, Mark Horgan made what I believe was the series’ only reference to the work of Justine McCarthy.

My last word on the whole disappointing enterprise is the same as my first: I am spectacularly unimpressed by all the bells and whistles. The world didn’t need a BBC-funded podcast reframing the story in a way that truncated accountability, vacuumed up credit, and served the podcaster’s ambition to be behind the wheel of a cheesy production.

Where Is George Gibney? just needed to tell the damn story, straight. It failed.

Irvin writes at Concussion Inc.

Previously: Irvin Muchnick on Broadsheet

From top BBC Sounds/Second Captains podcast ‘Where Is George Gibney’; Former Swim Ireland head coach Peter Banks at the Rio Olympics in 2016; Irvin Muchnick

Credit where credit is due.

In the most recent of my unimpressed takes on the slickly produced rehash that had been the BBC Sounds podcast series Where Is George Gibney? to date, I challenged producer Mark Horgan to find “where is Peter Banks?”

Banks is the Irish-American swimming coach and former top Irish and American national swimming organization official who is clearly at the center of the narrative of Gibney’s flight to the United States, with assists from governments and sports institutions.

My expectation was that Horgan would not come through.

However, episode 7 of the podcast, which dropped yesterday, not only finds Banks but blows the story open, as he sputters through an interview obviously establishing – though Banks won’t admit it, claiming a memory lapse – that he was the person who engineered an American coaching job offer to Gibney.

The letter, in turn, enabled the completion of the diversity lottery visa undergirding Gibney’s escape from Irish justice, and from Ireland altogether.

Bravo.

This is explosive new information, not the throat-clearing and hype I had been criticising. It bodes well for the prospect of not just more drama, but also more substance, in next week’s episode, for which a confrontation with Gibney is being promoted, and for a final two “real time” episodes, processing the findings of the series and outlining possible pressure for official action ahead.

In the new episode, Horgan notes that the American job offer letter to Gibney had been revealed, in redacted form, by my Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security for material from his immigration file.

Horgan proceeds to land an interview with Banks in Tampa. Banks lives in the area as a swimming coach for Tampa’s Berkeley Preparatory School — his most recent American position after being bounced by Swim Ireland as the national team coach in 2016.

Fumbling and stammering, Banks can’t help himself. He recounts meeting for the last time with Gibney in Florida in 1993, when Gibney was there to pick up his green card.

This was before his indictment on 27 counts of illicit carnal knowledge of minors, and a year prior to the outrageous Irish Supreme Court ruling that quashed the charges because of time lapsed.

So Gibney was already plotting his getaway, and Banks was his tool.

Banks says he doesn’t remember authoring or directing a job offer letter. Yet he turns right around and adds that such a hypothetical letter must have come from Blue Wave Swimming, the program he had taken over in 1989 after years as an assistant under Gibney at the Trojans team out of Newpark Comprehensive School in Blackrock, County Dublin.

Banks is fooling no one but himself. His guilty conscience washes over the audio stronger than a butterfly stroke through water.

I continue to have quibbles with Horgan’s podcast, but at this point they should be registered as just that: quibbles.

He doesn’t mention (at least the podcast doesn’t yet mention) Banks’s post as a director of John Leonard’s American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA), one of the most pernicious entities in the global cover-ups and cross-country movements of coaches accused (and sometimes ultimately criminally convicted) of sexual abuse of youth athletes in their charge.

Arguably, ASCA, a professional trade association, is more culpable than USA Swimming itself, the U.S. Olympic Committee national sport governing body, which is now under investigation by a federal grand jury for its cover-ups and shady insurance practices, the latter of which included a money-laundering offshore reinsurance subsidiary in Barbados.

I also don’t like the elliptical and chronologically scrambled accounts of the BBC’s stalking of Gibney and what I consider sometimes underwhelming information about his late-life lifestyle and activities. (To be fair, the podcast does now offer important new details on the coaching tree of abusers in Irish and British swimming, and on individuals who have aided and abetted Gibney in the U.S.)

And then there’s the connection of Supreme Court Justice Susan Denham and her brother, Gibney’s barrister Patrick Gageby. And there’s the coded ongoing coverage of the case by the defamation lawsuit-cowed Irish media.

But since Horgan has delivered big-time with Banks and there is more to come, it is not appropriate to dwell on what have become relatively small flaws.

There are complementary Irish broadcast and American journalistic approaches and emphases. Where Is George Gibney? now has justified its own, and has the juice to move forward toward real action holding Gibney and his many institutional enablers accountable.

Irvin writes at Concussion.net.

Previously: Irvin Muchnick on Broadsheet

Getty

Tonight.

American investigative sports journalist irvin Muchnick (top right), on the trail of former Irish Olympic swimming coach and child rapist George Gibney (top left) since 2015, answers your questions (submitted earlier) on the case and and the podcast that has brought world-wide attention to Gibney’s crimes.

Irvin writes at Concussion.net.

Earlier: Irvin Muchnick: Not Making Waves

From top: George Gibney; BBC Sounds/Second Captains podcast ‘Where Is George Gibney?’; Irvin Muchnick

I don’t expect to be named Miss Congeniality for having to break the news to folks in Ireland that the BBC/Second Captains podcast Where Is George Gibney?, despite being hyped to the heavens by the herd of independent minds in the Anglo-Irish media, is pitifully exploitative and faux-earnest, and that its practitioners are callow.

In the just-aired episode about Gibney’s rape of a 17-year-old Irish swimmer, pseudonymously called “Susan,” on a 1991 training trip in Tampa, Florida, producer-narrator Mark Horgan tracks down her sister for the purpose of, among other things, sharing with the audience the indispensable factoids that this sexual assault victim boasted a perfect breaststroke kick and the physical beauty of a model.

Not noted is that the victim herself was interviewed in explicit detail on RTÉ television back in 2006.

Generally, the new podcast seems happy to make fair use of archival audio — but only when the content in question conveniently aligns with the new project’s template of rewriting, and adding slick production values to, what was already reported and re-reported, even in the Irish media. The priority is a patina of freshness and exclusivity.

Meanwhile, Horgan devotes exactly one sentence to recording the rejection of criminal charges against Gibney by Ireland’s director of public prosecutions. The DPP, Horgan glibly avers, “did not have jurisdiction” over Susan’s rape.

Bullshit.

In fact, Susan was one of four former swimmers of Gibney’s Trojans team who lodged abuse allegations against the two-time Irish Olympic coach, prompting a fresh investigation by gardai in Blackrock, County Dublin.

In declining to pursue his extradition, the DPP office decided they were unmoved by the body of new evidence against him. As noted in my  last article, this was in 1996.

And if jurisdiction was the sticking point in justice for Susan, then how, pray tell, does that square with the DPP’s revisiting her case yet again in 2004 (with the same result)?

The sad bottom line of this podcast series has become clearer and clearer:

The Horgan crew appeared to have no desire to use their BBC platform to assist in a global reckoning for the abuses of an Olympic sports system that turns millions of kids in extracurricular activities into vessels of our bread-and-circuses fantasies, while covering up the worst outcomes, many of them heinous.

In the interview of Susan’s sister, she betrays this superficiality. The tragedy of her sibling’s ruined life is, yes of course, that Susan, following multiple suicide attempts, would turn into a mental patient who required institutionalisation. But the other tragedy is the one about how the evil coach dashed a family’s dreams of Olympic glory — Susan’s, directly, and their parents’, vicariously.

Thus does our world devolve into full-tilt jockocracy, a place where the ultimate grievance is the one expressed by the Marlon Brando character in On the Waterfront: “I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody.”

For me, the derivative and thoroughly sophomoric nature of Where Is George Gibney? was evident from the first second of the first episode.

In that moment, Horgan and his cohort set off on a purportedly breathless, carefully engineered stakeout of an old man. Actually, Gibney was long known to be playing out the end of his miserable life in a house on Breakwater Drive in Altamonte Springs, Florida. Whether there is an actual punchline for this extended contrivance remains to be heard.

For the latest episode, Ireland’s answers to the Hardy Boys of children’s mystery books tell podcast listeners that they have changed pursuit cars for their undercover op.

Subscribing to the Michael Moore school of documentary making, Horgan must convey everything through his own eyes. Unfortunately, he lacks Moore’s wit and sense of purpose.

One of my Irish-American readers got it right.

Where Is George Gibney?, this reader wrote me early on, is “like an Australian one, The Teacher’s Pet, which turned a sordid but potentially interesting story into an irritating endurance test. My wife has difficulty listening to any Australian accents as a result.”

Irvin Muchnick writes at Concussion.net

Previously: Gibney Didn’t Vanish

Shallow Hype

Previously: The Chief Justice, Her Brother And How George Gibney Got Away

Meanwhile…

Tonight.

Journalist Irvin Muchnick (above) will Answer A Broadsheet Reader.

Please leave any questions on Gibney, the BBC Sounds/Second Captains podcast or any other matters for Irvin below.

UPDATE: Irvin answers

Previously: Answer A broadsheet Reader on Broadsheet


George Gibney (left); Journalist and author Irvin Muchnik

With a major new BBC/Second Captains podcast series on George Gibney scheduled for release in May, Irvin Muchnik, who has been on the trail of the swimming coach for years, details recent developments in the US and his lengthy struggle getting even Irish media interested in Gibney.

Irvin writes:

Hobbled by George Gibney’s lack of name recognition on this side of the Atlantic, and pusillanimous by nature when it comes to tackling important sexual assault narratives until they are either the flavour of the month or have risen, in the cliché, to the level of “a dead girl or a live boy”, major American outlets have been slow to pick up on the documented reporting so far published only at my modest-circulation platforms.

The current connection to the more general and better-understood federal grand jury investigation of USA Swimming is a hook for which I remain hopeful for major coverage, though I am not unrealistically optimistic.

Definitive action on George Gibney seems to be one of those chicken-and-egg or “Alphonse-and-Gaston” processes, with multiple moving parts.

Will the Irish government ask for Gibney’s extradition before they are certain that the return answer would be ‘yes’?

Will the US government seek to deport Gibney before being issued a formal extradition request?

And perhaps equally important: In the realpolitik always factoring into such matters, will US Department of Justice’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MALRS) office ever flip the switch on absent pressure from a more powerful media player than myself?

In 2016, during an early stage of my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation, I was interviewed for a segment on Fox News called Sports Court. You can view the clip, “Gov’t hiding immigration docs on accused pedophile,” here.

Ironically, the interviewer and producer of Sports Court, Tamara Holder, herself would resign from Fox News late that year as part of a multimillion-dollar settlement of a claim that she was sexually harassed and assaulted by an executive.

Holder thus became part of the real-life narrative of the current movie Bombshell, which is mostly about Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson, two higher-profile ex-Fox News personalities.

Later in 2016, with the help of a friend of mine who was a San Francisco Chronicle columnist, the newspaper’s long-time federal courts reporter, Bob Egelko, was enlisted to write about Judge Breyer’s FOIA ruling.

And that’s it for American media on George Gibney.

Heinous scandals with long tails — whether they’re Jeffrey Epstein or Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein or George Gibney — are always festivals of missed opportunities.

In 2014 Chuck Wielgus, the chief executive of USA Swimming, withdrew from his scheduled induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in response to a petition campaign by abuse victims who raised the public consciousness of his two-decade role in covering up their cases — and in at least one of them, committing unindicted perjury.

At the time, George Diaz, a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, bragged to me that his column opining “Why does this man still have a job?” was “one of the five entries that got me a Top 10 acknowledgment by Associated Press Sports Editors as one of the top columnists in the country.”

I found this a strange boast, insofar as (a) on the front end, Diaz had not been responsible for exposing Wielgus’s administration and lies, and (b) on the back end, in any case, Wielgus would remain in his million-dollar-a-year post until he died in 2017. One of the top ten yapping jackals of a fortnight’s media scrum? For sure. Hands down.

But the reason I bring this up is something else: The Orlando Sentinel was George Gibney’s now-home market, and for years I importuned Diaz to jump into the pool on this story, which looked to be right in his wheelhouse. (He did columns mentioning his adoption of a foster child and he advocated for that population.) Yet nothing ever happened.

In November 2014, Diaz told me he had been out sick for three weeks.

In February 2015, Diaz said he was tied up with coverage of the Daytona 500 motor race, but he promised to put Gibney “on the radar screen ASAP”.

In August 2015, Diaz wrote to me, “I have to be honest, I really have been meaning to get to this, but so slammed…”

June 2017: “I will be in touch with editors today. Trust me the issue is not lack of interest…it’s lack of manpower and time…given all the cutbacks that have faced newspapers through the years it’s simply a matter of Last Man (or Woman) standing.”

April 2018: Diaz was downsized out of his column at the Sentinel.

November 2018: The Orlando Sentinel laid off George Diaz.

Then we have the tale of Outside magazine. In early 2018, in the wake of the FOIA settlement with the government and the then-exploding scandal of USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, I was approached by an old college friend who is the No. 2 editor at Outside.

He suggested that I write the definitive George Gibney feature article for his publication. “Let’s go win a National Magazine Award,” he said. This editor told me he had served as a panelist for the award in the past. Again — the solicitation was from him to me, not the other way around.

Over the course of three months, and with the editor’s guidance, I wrote, then rewrote, then re-rewrote, a story pitch. It was a verbal beatdown of little journalistic acuity. But it did have all trappings of a Hollywood scenarist vying for studio funding.

At long last, my friend the No. 2 editor came back with definitive word from his boss, the No. 1 editor: Outside would be thrilled to have me write a few hundred words about this little brouhaha for the magazine’s website. Then, perhaps, somewhere down the road, a print feature when … when … when …

Saying anything further about all this would be redundant and petulant. The Gibney story is not about me.

Irish media

Irish media counterparts have been a different kettle of fish. They know who George Gibney is, of course, and they episodically obsess over how he was “the one who got away,” while other prominent Irish swimming coaches of his generation went to prison for less (Derry O’Rourke, Ger Doyle), and one for perhaps more (Frank McCann — he murdered his wife and their baby daughter, by burning down their house with them in it, to prevent them from learning that he had raped and impregnated one of his young swimmers).

The Irish media are also hamstrung by the lack of a First Amendment and an accompanying tradition of chilling defamation laws.

And like the public at large, they are often uniquely fatigued and paralysed by the agonizing unspooling of the historical legacies of sexual abuses at many institutions — especially but not only the Catholic Church.

Continue reading →

From top: Former Irish swimming coach George Gibney; journalist Irvin Muchnick 

In America, groups of citizens can be brought together to work as grand juries which investigate potential criminal conduct and decide whether criminal charges should be brought.

They make this determination after obtaining and reviewing documents and other evidence, and perhaps hearing sworn testimonies of witnesses.

US journalist Irvin Muchnick reports that a grand jury is currently investigating USA Swimming in New York and, within that, questions are being asked about former Irish swimming coach George Gibney.

Mr Muchnick writes:

“The year began with what my ebook on the hunt for George Gibney called an “educated prediction” that “2019 will be the year of reckoning” for the former Irish Olympic swimming coach.

Gibney remains harboured in my country, the United States, a quarter of a century after he skated prosecution on 27 counts of child sexual abuse thanks to a controversial technical ruling by the Irish Supreme Court, and more than 20 years after the Irish government’s Murphy Inquiry “vindicated” his accusers.

In a legal Catch-22 laid bare by a federal judge’s 2016 ruling in my favor in a Freedom of Information Act case for Gibney’s American immigration records, his 2010 citizenship application got rejected.

(The applicant was probably making a panicked effort to shut down, once and for all, efforts to extradite and try him for his crimes, including one committed on US soil in 1991.)

At the same time, however, the government decided that Gibney was “not removable,” and his permanent resident alien status was kept intact. The reason given was that he has not been convicted of a crime.

Well, 2019 is drawing to a close and Gibney is still here. But my holiday message to Irish friends is that something important still seems to be happening with him, and soon.

Last week one of my sources, who is close to a secret grand jury investigation in New York whose non-Gibney aspects have been voluminously reported by the Wall Street Journal and other major newspapers, told me that additional persons recently testified to the grand jury regarding Gibney.

This is where I need to explain, yet again, what is and is not driving the US investigation of Gibney.

Not appearing to drive the investigation is any particular moral imperative to bring to justice a person I call the most notorious at-large sex criminal in the history of global sport.

What is happening, rather, is what I call the “chum in the water” model for getting Gibney. This lacks some of the focus and clarity desired by advocates for Gibney’s likely scores of victims.

But the good news is that it could bring about the same desired and long-overdue outcome.

The main task of the grand jury is handing down indictments for sexual abuse cover-ups at USA Swimming – and perhaps more important, insurance fraud, some of it involving the organisation’s now-defunct reinsurance subsidiary, the Barbados-based “United States Sports Insurance Company.”

For, you see, money dictates the priorities of the legal system, along with just about everything else.

The backdrop is the embarrassment of the federal authorities two years ago, when they were exposed as having been asleep at the switch in the scandals surrounding Larry Nassar, the pervert doctor of USA Gymnastics.

The current grand jury now is probing parallel cover-ups at USA Swimming, the grist of which has long been in the pipeline of multiple Federal Bureau of Investigation field offices.

Simultaneous with this is a development spurred by various news headlines and this #MeToo moment: 15 of the 50 individual states have relaxed statute of limitations standards.

Associated Press reporting found that, for the Catholic Church, resulting new litigation “could surpass anything the nation’s clergy sexual abuse crisis has seen before, with potentially more than 5,000 new cases and payouts topping $4 billion.”

Gibney is one of several real and live offshoots of the grand jury investigation of swimming.

As I reported in July with the publication of an updated edition of my Gibney ebook, these investigators are not examining just the ambiguities in his old immigration paperwork.

They are looking at his work as chair of a children’s medical mission in Peru in the late 1990’s, sponsored by a Catholic parish in Colorado — the first of several states of his US odyssey.

I have further reported that the church mission may be connected to the expansion into the US of a right-wing Peruvian sect called Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (“Fellowship of Christian Life”). The Sodalitium’s founder, Luis Fernando Figari, lives in seclusion in Rome, and today is disavowed by the group, following the separate publications of its own independent investigation and of a book by two Peruvian journalists, which document horrifying allegations of widespread sexual abuse and kidnapping.

Last month the US attorney in New York, Geoffrey Berman, who is directing the grand jury, declined to comment on my reporting – first to an Irish media outlet and then to me.

But note that Berman didn’t deny the accuracy of my reporting, either.

My own query to the US attorney had included the name of the co-coordinator of that office’s work on human trafficking, who is said to be spearheading the Gibney aspect of the grand jury probe.

At this point, unfortunately, only the Off the Ball podcast and the Irish Sun have chosen to ramp up my newest Gibney findings.

The Irish Times and the Times of London, which seem most interested in recycling their greatest hits of two decades ago, have not.

But just because many major news media, in America as well as in Ireland, are too cautious to risk reinforcing the reporting of a lone freelance journalist does not invalidate its truthfulness and thoroughness.

So to those who remain hopeful, I say: Hang in there. And Happy Holidays.”

Previously: The Chief Justice, Her Brother And How George Gibney Got Away

Unreasonable Delay

Irvin Muchnick on Broadsheet

Former Irish swimming coach George Gibney; journalist Irvin Muchnick 

In July.

American sportswriter and journalist Irvin Muchnick gave an interview to Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio One, following the publication of the second eBook edition of his book about former Irish swimming coach George Gibney.

Gibney was charged with 27 counts of indecency against young swimmers and of carnal knowledge of girls under the age of 15 in Ireland in April, 1993.

However, he moved to the United States in 1995, the year after an unusual and controversial decision by the Supreme Court led to the quashing of these charges.

He was also granted a visa during a visit to the United States in 1992 – seemingly aided by a Garda character reference – a year after people who had been abused by him started to speak up and organise themselves.

During his radio interview, Mr Muchnick told Mr O’Rourke that there were federal investigations of racketeering and insurance fraud involving USA Swimming taking place.

Asked how such investigations may “turn up the heat” on Gibney, Mr Muchnick said:

“I know that there are federal agents who are involved in these swimming investigations who are taking a specific look at George Gibney right now.”

Further to this…

Last week.

Journalist Rebecca Davis-O’Brien, in The Wall Street Journal, reported:

“Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating USA Swimming, including allegations that the organization stifled athlete sexual-abuse claims, concealed its assets and improperly reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars in rebates from its in-house insurance company, people familiar with the matter said.

“Over the past year, a federal grand jury in Manhattan has heard evidence in the investigation, which is being led by the Manhattan US Attorney’s office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

It followed an article last month concerning the same investigation by Scott Reid in the Orange County Register.

Federal grand juries are used in some US states to decide whether probable cause exists to support criminal charges against a suspect.

Grand jury deliberations are carried out in secret.

USA Swimming Faces Probe Into Sex-Abuse Claims, Business Practices (The Wall Street Journal, October 2, 2019)

Related: Gymnastics Federation’s Payments to a Linked Foundation Is Under Scrutiny (The Wall Street Journal, October 7, 2019) 

Wall Street Journal Bombshell: Federal Grand Jury and FBI Are Investigating USA Swimming Sexual Abuse — Including Concealed Assets and Irregularities With In-House Insurance Company (Irvin Muchnick, Concussion.net)

Previously: On Gibney’s Trail

From top: Irvin Muchnik with Independent TD Maureen O’uullivan; Croke Park; Spice Bag. All pics: Irvin Muchnick

On the trail of George Gibney, American sportswriter and investigative journalist Irvin Muchnick visited Dublin recently.

Irvin writes:

The ostensible purpose of my visit to Dublin was promotion of the second edition of my ebook The George Gibney Chronicles: What the Hunt For the Most Notorious At-Large Sex Criminal in the History of Global Sports Has Told Us About the Sports Establishments and Governments on Two Continents.

Two Broadsheet worthies share my belief that this is a story worth continuing to tell, more and better: Olga Cronin (who has been vetting new Gibney factoids for a number of years) and John Ryan (this quirky website’s somewhat Oz-like majordomo but in a good way!).

This is an account of how things turned out for me in Ireland on the extradition campaign front — and several others. Obviously, I didn’t accomplish the immediate transport of Gibney in handcuffs.

But I was able to experience one of the world’s great cities and meet the coolest people.

For those of you just tuning in, Gibney is merely the former two-time Irish Olympic swimming head coach who fled here in the mid-1990s after a dodgy technical Supreme Court decision quashed what were then the 27 most rigorous charges assembled against him, out of a body of more instances of child molestation and rape than we’ll ever know.

Agreeing in 2016, in my Freedom of Information Act case against the Department of Homeland Security, to open up at least some of the Gibney immigration files I was seeking to daylight, a distinguished senior federal judge, Charles R. Breyer, reviewed the dual paradoxical upshot of Gibney’s 2010 application for naturalized citizenship.

Number one, that application failed because he lied on it in response to the material question of whether he had ever been criminally indicted in his native country.

Number two, the federal immigration bureaucracy decided, nonetheless, that he was not a candidate for removal from the country.

In his published opinion, which remains in the law books in the wake of my 2017 settlement at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Breyer asked why? “We’re not a haven for pedophiles,” he observed.

Maureen O’Sullivan, the Dublin Central district’s independent representative in the Dáil, promptly pressed Simon Coveney, tánaiste and foreign minister.

The government “will act” on the new Gibney information “if we can,” Coveney said on the floor of the Dáil.

More than a year and a half later, these Socratic maieutics remain aspirational during the pendency of what I am reliably told is yet another run at examining Gibney’s p’s and q’s — an exercise that also resumes the on-again, off-again exploration of whether Ireland’s director of public prosecutions has any game left.

Some of us insist that where there’s a way, there should be a will. The scholarship of the 1994 Irish Supreme Court statute of limitations ruling in the Gibney matter — partially determined, with classic cronyism, by a justice whose brother argued the case before the judicial panel — has frayed.

And new information has emerged on the old cases. And new cases have emerged.

And lest we forget, one of the most heinous allegations against Gibney, his rape and impregnation of one of his teen swimmers, occurred in 1991 in Tampa, pointing to the direct jurisdictional interest of not only the U.S. Department of Justice, but the state attorney of Hillsborough County, Florida, as well.

(Citing the Irish government’s too-little-too-late 1998 Murphy Commission report, which passively voiced the finding that Gibney’s accusers “were vindicated” by the evidence accumulated against Gibney by An Garda Síochána, the national police, I decline the conventional and cant adverb “allegedly.”)

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