Settlement Corruption and Ethics Failure: The Kelley Currin-Rick Curl Saga

” Ah, what a beauty! $150,000 well spent!”

Imagine, if you will, that the late Joe Paterno didn’t take action to expose the child-molesting proclivities of his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, not because he was concerned about his cherished football program’s image, but because Sandusky paid him off with a big check. Can we all agree that this would have been even more reprehensible than what actually occurred? I assume so. Paterno would have been enriching himself with the sacrifice of young innocents to a pedophile.

Now compare that hypothetical with what we know about the developing scandal around renowned swimming coach Rick Curl, who has trained Olympian swimmers for decades. took a leave of absence from the club he founded Wednesday in the wake of accusations that he engaged in a sexual relationship with a teen swimmer and then paid her and her parents to keep quiet as part of a settlement.

Kelley Davies Currin, a former swimmer whom Curl coached at his Washington, D.C. area swim club, recently told authorities that Curl had sexual relations with her for four years beginning in 1983, when she was 13 and he was twenty years her senior. USA Swimming has requested an emergency disciplinary hearing against Curl, but that is not the issue here.

The issue here is this:  Currin also said her parents, Gerald and Pamela Davies, learned of the ongoing molestation and statutory rape when they read her diary as she was preparing to enroll at the University of Texas on a swimming scholarship in 1987. They confronted Curl, and in 1989 reached a non-disclosure agreement under which Rick Curl agreed to pay the family $150,000 in exchange for the family’s pledge not to press charges or speak publicly about his molestation and rape of their daughter

The short version: Currin and her family accepted cold cash to allow a predatory coach who worked with young women on a daily basis to continue having access to them and to be able to do to them what he did to Currin. [If you want to know what he did to Currin, read the Washington Post story here. I don’t care to relate it.] That’s 25 years during which a trusted professional who seduced and raped one of the teenage girls entrusted to him was as free as Sandusky to  pursue his twisted amorous activities. Did he? I have no idea, and neither did Currin and her parents, just as Paterno and the other Penn State enablers could say they didn’t “know” that Sandusky was happily buggering more boys. But they knew that he would have the opportunity, and they did nothing…indeed, they did worse than nothing. They profited by doing nothing.

Now Currin is finally talking, and spinning. She is in her forties now, so she says she was just a clueless 19 year-old, and didn’t understand. Nonsense. She was an adult; she could vote, she could have sex legally, she was accountable. And she hasn’t been 19 for 25 years. She says that the family got bad advice from their lawyer. Nonsense. A lawyer’s job is to focus only on a client’s interests, not those of the future victims of the clients’ molester. It was the ethical duty of Currin and her parents to do the right thing as citizens and human beings, the Golden Rule thing, the obvious and ethical thing: stop Rick Curl from doing to another girl want he did to Kelley. They accepted money to do the wrong thing, knowing that they were potentially aiding and abetting a serial rapist.

I have always been critical of the family of Mary Jo Kopechne, the young campaign worker that Ted Kennedy killed in a negligent homicide caused by his drunkenness, irresponsibility and cowardice. They were paid handsomely by Papa Joe Kennedy to play along with the cover-up, and not press charges or sue. This allowed a man of miserable character to prosper in the U.S. Senate, but that is, tragically, not a rare occurrence, and it was a good bet that Kennedy would stay off country bridges in the future, so it cannot be said that they knew they were endangering other star-struck young women like their daughter. As reprehensible as that family’s accepting hush money was, what Currin and her family did was infinitely worse.

When ethics fail, the law steps in, for better or worse. I would support a law making such non-disclosure deals illegal when they involve criminal activity and allowing an individual like Curl to have access to future victims. Currin was a victim herself, and horribly violated, but that cannot excuse allowing the same fate to befall others.

__________________________________________________

Facts and Graphic: Washington Post

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

 

 

18 thoughts on “Settlement Corruption and Ethics Failure: The Kelley Currin-Rick Curl Saga

  1. What kind of parents sell out their children this way? What kind of young woman (19-years old and after her “experience”) would take money instead of going after the bastard who abused her? She was certainly not “naive.” Apparently the money has been paid and well spent (!!) long ago, so now she develops a conscience?

    This of course is not new, on either personal or institutional levels: the Currins, the Catholic Church (and probably other denominations who haven’t hit the news), Penn State — all willing to ensure continued criminal sexual abuse to either save their reputations or make money.

    I am reminded of the Yeats poem: “Things fall apart; the center will not hold.” Well that’s what’s happening, in these cases and overall in our cultural norms, ethics, and morals. It is worse than depressing. It is a depravity, a general or ignorant acceptance of a huge variety of criminal and unethical behavior because we are either lazy, numb, or stupid.

    Maybe the Mayans were right when they ended their calendar in 2012…

  2. I don’t feel this can be called a “settlement”. Don’t settlements have to go through the court system? Otherwise – since this was a private transaction, I’d call this a bribe and by accepting the bribe, I think the parents became accomplices to criminal activity.

    How would this hypothetical situation be any different:
    A man steals from a store in front of an employee and flees. The employee recognizes him a week later on the street. The robber gives him $100 to not tell anyone and the employee agrees.

    And here’s my last question:
    How does Kelley Currin know that her parents didn’t already have this arrangement set up with Rick Curl prior to the commencement of the abuse?

    • 1. It’s what we call an “out-of-court settlement,” completely legal, in which a potential party to litigation pays a sum to avoid a law suit, or, if one has been filed, pays so it will be dropped.
      2. The difference in the law’s eyes is that the employee wasn’t a victim of the crime, so he becomes an accessory after the fact. If the store allowed the robber to pay restitution and law enforcement was never informed, then it would be identical.
      3. She doesn’t Great question!

    • 1. And here’s my last question:
      How does Kelley Currin know that her parents didn’t already have this arrangement set up with Rick Curl prior to the commencement of the abuse?
      Maybe I am mistaken about your last point, are you alluding that her parents sold her for the purposes of abuse to him?

      • I’m not making an accusation – only pointing out that the possibility exists. Without a real investigation into the extent of his crimes and the involvement of others at the time of the discovery, accepting the money on behalf of their daughter sort of implicates them to a cover up.

        I don’t think it’s very likely though, given that it’s an extreme idea from out of nowhere. But what happened in that 2 years from 1987-89 when the parents found out about crime and when they settled for their silence? How did that conversation go and who was involved? Was it just a discussion between lawyers with threats going back and forth? Was there really no police involvement? It’s just odd to me.

  3. I am in complete agreement with your premise, but I am hesitant to apply it to this particular incident.
    I would assume that there is at least some basis (obviously at least the appearance of wrong doing) to it as an agreement was signed, but it is hard to say as these coaches have enormous access to these children but they also have a huge vulnerability to false claims. Granted this was quite a while ago and I think abuse then was not treated with as much contempt as it is today and that could have really played a part. Thus far I have not seen any other allegations against this man like there was in the Sandusky case. I understand your point about non disclosure agreements in regards to criminal acts but if the allegation cannot likely be proven (or even followed up on), but there is leverage in terms of destroying a reputation, what is the ethical path? Announce what has happened to your daughter and hope the media of the day will pick it up, report on the abuser and not victim (possibly destroy her aspirations) or take the payout and hope that will be enough to deter the guy from doing it again? Unless more victims come forward or evidence beyond the non disclosure agreement comes out I don’t think I could fairly assess who was the least ethical.
    I believe an abuser should always be outed for the protection of the community, but there must be a balance, especially in this day and age where an accusation is as good as a conviction when it comes to a reputation.

    • WHAT???????
      Who cares about any of that? Are you saying that the accusation was made up? That hardly seems plausible, does it? Who says that molesting a 13-year old and having sex with her was “was not treated with as much contempt as it is today”—if anything, it was treated more harshly. The parents had a duty as citizens to report a rapist, because that’s what this guy was. Her swimming career might have been affected?? So what? That’s way down the scale of objective priorities here.

      What “leverage’ are you talking about, and again, what is the relevance? She had a diary that was evidence of a crime—I’d say mighty strong evidence. Let the coach go on having access to victims and “hope that will be enough” to stop him? What kind of logic and responsibility is that?

      It doesn’t matter whether he raped anyone else—they didn’t know he wouldn’t, when they let him pay them so he could continue having the opportunity.
      You need to think this through a bit more.

      • “Who cares about any of that? Are you saying that the accusation was made up? That hardly seems plausible, does it?”

        I think it is entirely plausible, where are the police on this, DA, feds? I would change my tune in a heartbeat if any of the aforementioned said they were investigating, I have seen no such thing. It is getting media attention, the non-disclosure was provided months ago. Where the hell is the investigation? He didn’t plead guilty, admit guilt or even acknowledge any wrong doing. Yes he paid her, and IT did stipulate for compensation for pain and suffering, I do find that a bit damming, but what the hell is the truth? How many other people have signed non-disclosure agreements and payouts to avoid suits and avoid any bad press when there was little to no merit? Never happens right?

        “Who says that molesting a 13-year old and having sex with her was “was not treated with as much contempt as it is today”—if anything, it was”

        I should have said something more to the point that those stories were not as readily picked up by the media and were not as widely distributed as the internet and cable TV now allows. In addition advocacy and support groups were nowhere near as effective then as they are now.

        “The parents had a duty as citizens to report a rapist, because that’s what this guy was.”

        If he did it then yes, they had a duty to report it, I agree 100%

        “Her swimming career might have been affected?? So what? That’s way down the scale of objective priorities here.”

        Her whole life could have been effected, every bit of it. The stigma of being a rape victim is much different now than it was 25 years ago. Take in consideration if the accusation could have led to a guilty verdict or not, something their lawyer would have considered, and you have a recipe for a settlement.

        “What “leverage’ are you talking about, and again, what is the relevance? She had a diary that was evidence of a crime—I’d say mighty strong evidence. Let the coach go on having access to victims and “hope that will be enough” to stop him? What kind of logic and responsibility is that? It doesn’t matter whether he raped anyone else—they didn’t know he wouldn’t, when they let him pay them so he could continue having the opportunity.”

        So your telling me, if your lawyer told you that he was not going to go to jail, or get a “slap on the wrist” and the best you could hope for was a settlement that you would not do it? Would you take your daughter and stand in front of the club telling everyone that he raped your 19 (at that time) year old daughter? It is not like you could start an internet campaign against him or a DA and if the media didn’t pick it up you would have been dead in the water. I don’t believe he was a public figure at the time, so would that have resulted in slander without a conviction for rape?

        Like I said, I agree with your whole premise. If I took everything you laid out at face value I would agree but I just have some doubts on this case at this point.

        • 1. There are undoubtedly signed documents supporting the settlement. The money is paid, and the victim’s violation of the settlement deal quite possibly forfeits that money or opens her to lawsuit. The statute of limitations has passed on statutory rape. Plus the parents would have been engaging in criminal extortion if your fantasy were true. There is little chance that the allegations were fabricated.
          2. There is no police investigation because the statute has run, and prosecution is impossible now.
          3. “Her whole life could have been effected, every bit of it. The stigma of being a rape victim is much different now than it was 25 years ago. Take in consideration if the accusation could have led to a guilty verdict or not, something their lawyer would have considered, and you have a recipe for a settlement.” Fine. It’s tough reporting a rape. That doesn’t excuse not reporting it.
          4. “So your telling me, if your lawyer told you that he was not going to go to jail, or get a “slap on the wrist” and the best you could hope for was a settlement that you would not do it?” I’m telling you that a lawyer would never say that, and if he did, I’d find a new lawyer. He would certainly be fired and barred from coaching girls again. And that alone would be reason enough to report to the police.

          • Ok, your the lawyer so I will take your word for it, my reservations were mostly tied to the fact it was not being pursued by law enforcement. One of the articles I read stated there was no statute in the state on rape. So I agree with your verdict.

            I do have a couple of questions though.
            1. How do you reconcile “She says that the family got bad advice from their lawyer. Nonsense. A lawyer’s job is to focus only on a client’s interests, not those of the future victims of the clients’ molester.” with “I’m telling you that a lawyer would never say that, and if he did, I’d find a new lawyer.”

            2. I do find it amusing that you find me being suspicious of extortion a “fantasy” but you think questioning if the parents sold their daughter to be abused a “great question!” what do you think is the more probable?

            • Steve, as I said above (below?), Md. DOESN’T have a limitation on rape, but practically there is a limitation on a statutory rape prosecution where the victim is now a middle-aged woman. It’s just not a likely win, and most, if not all, prosecutors would never touch it, especially with these facts, the payment, the settlement, etc.

              1. Because a lawyer who would say that a coach molesting a student wouldn’t be convicted in Maryland would be lousy lawyer. A good lawyer tells me what will happen and what my daughter will go through, that a conviction is never assured, that I could get a settlement from the perp in lieu of failing charges, and that the right thing to do would be to report. In any event, it’s my call, whatever the lawyer says or advises.
              2. I said it was a great question because it highlights how corrupt the settlement deal is—the parents are taking money in exchange for their daughter’s rape. Tim’s question made the point that in moral terms, its not that far from taking the money first. Neither I nor he meant to suggest that this is what happened, or that it was even plausible.

              • I am on board with you, but I guess I still have some lingering doubts.

                “Steve, as I said above (below?), Md. DOESN’T have a limitation on rape, but practically there is a limitation on a statutory rape prosecution where the victim is now a middle-aged woman. It’s just not a likely win, and most, if not all, prosecutors would never touch it, especially with these facts, the payment, the settlement, etc.”

                I understand the long shot but shouldn’t she in her effort to do the right thing now try to get the DA to file charges? I know the situation is more difficult now but the same arguments apply even if it is a long shot. He is essentially guilty now without ever being able to clear his name if he even could. The thought of ruining anyone without a conviction disturbs me, on the flip side I guess he doesn’t have to worry about going to jail.

                1. Because a lawyer who would say that a coach molesting a student wouldn’t be convicted in Maryland would be lousy lawyer. A good lawyer tells me what will happen and what my daughter will go through, that a conviction is never assured, that I could get a settlement from the perp in lieu of failing charges, and that the right thing to do would be to report. In any event, it’s my call, whatever the lawyer says or advises.

                I am sold.

                2. I said it was a great question because it highlights how corrupt the settlement deal is—the parents are taking money in exchange for their daughter’s rape. Tim’s question made the point that in moral terms, its not that far from taking the money first. Neither I nor he meant to suggest that this is what happened, or that it was even plausible.

                Ok, I didn’t read it that way but I can see the linkage. I guess I just need to pay more attention to how you relate ideas. I am muddle minded (TBI) at times.

                Thanks for taking the time

  4. I agree with you that the settlement agreement was ethically wrong.

    However, better late than never. I will not be surprised at all if the Penn State scandal and Rick Curl and Noah Rucker cases don’t encourage others to face their childhood demons and speak out now – no matter how many years they have lived with the shame. It is quite common for people to keep quiet for years, decades even. I’m not a Psychiatrist, so I won’t begin to try to explain why. But it really is no surprise.

    Yes, you can vote in this country at 18. But you can’t rent a car. You aren’t considered old enough to drink alcohol. Insurance companies consider you a higher risk and charge you more accordingly. And when you have been repeatedly raped for years, perhaps your emotional maturity is just a tad bit screwed up!

    I agree with you that the settlement enabled Curl to be free to abuse other swimmers. Shame on every person that signed it – including the attorneys who drew that agreement up! Does being a lawyer grant you an exception from doing the right thing as “citizens and a human beings”?

    I completely agree that such settlements – ones that cover-up crimes – should be illegal. Yes, the law should step in where ethics fail. In this case, the law failed, too.

    • You’re right—Md. is strange, and has no statute of limitations for felonies. Thanks for the correction. Practically speaking, however, a 2 decade old statutory rape is never going to be prosecuted, with a 40 year old woman as the victim. There is no point to a police investigation.

      • Not sure. From our local Channel 9 News: “Montgomery County Police Capt. Paul Starks says investigators have successfully brought very old and very cold cases against suspects in the past, but declined to discuss this case specifically.”

        Time will tell.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.