A former pairs partner of John Coughlin, the American figure skater who died of suicide in January, has accused him of sexually abusing her for two years.
Bridget Namiotka made the accusation on Facebook, replying to a message of support for Coughlin. “I’m sorry but john hurt at least 10 people including me,” she wrote. “He sexually abused me for 2 years. Nobody innocent hangs themself [sic].”
She went on to add: “Someone that’s innocent doesn’t hang himself. Think about the victims when you’re speaking up for what he did to at least 10 girls.”
“Think about all of the girls he hurt.”
"Grooming happens. It happened to me and he hurt a lot of girls. Think about the victims.”
Tara Modlin, Coughlin’s agent, denied the accusation, which was reported by USA Today. “It seems that you want me to comment on an unstable persons [sic] Facebook comment — I don’t really understand your question,” she texted a USA Today reporter. " … my suggestion is to call some of his other partners …”
John Manly, the lawyer who represents Namiotka and two other women who were minors when they allegedly were abused by Coughlin, said her social media reaction was prompted by frustration over criticism from Coughlin’s supporters.
“My client and the other two women I represent have had to endure a maelstrom of support for the perpetrator from people who know literally nothing about the case,” Manly said in a phone interview. “They’ve been accused of killing him and I think what you saw from my client is finally, you know, a really courageous act of speaking up and saying, ‘He did do this and I was a child.’”
Coughlin, a two-time U.S. pairs champion with two other partners, teamed with Namiotka, 29, from 2004 to 2007, when she was between the ages of 14 and 17 and he was 18-21. They won three medals on the Junior Grand Prix series and finished ninth in the senior (Olympic) level at the 2007 U.S. national championships.
Coughlin was 33 when he hanged himself on Jan. 18 in the Kansas City home of his father, one day after he had been given an interim suspension by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, an independent nonprofit that says it is “committed to ending all forms of abuse in sport.” At the time, USA Today reported there had been three reports of sexual misconduct against him, allegations that he had called “unfounded.” In February, SafeSport announced his death had effectively ended the investigation and a month later said it would not reopen the case despite a culture “that allowed grooming and abuse to go unchecked for too long” and “cannot be allowed to continue.” Coughlin’s death, the organization said in a statement at the time, meant he was no longer a potential threat.
Coughlin told USA Today in early January that SafeSport had prevented him from speaking about the allegations, a claim the organization denied. “While I wish I could speak freely about the unfounded allegations levied against me, the SafeSport rules prevent me from doing so since the case remains pending,” he wrote. “I note only that the SafeSport notice of allegation itself stated that an allegation in no way constitutes a finding by SafeSport or that there is any merit to the allegation.”
Manly said he and his client believe U.S. Figure Skating could have stopped the abuse.
“The real tragedy here is that my client believes, as do I, that what Mr. Coughlin was doing was known to people at U.S. Figure Skating who were in a position to stop it and they also knew that he had done it,” he said. " . . . When you have multiple accusers over generations who don’t know each other telling the same story, that’s not a good sign if you’re trying to show you’re innocent.
“ . . . Instead, they allowed this false narrative to be put out by Mr. Coughlin and later his supporters that he’s just wrongfully accused by crazy women, and nothing could be further from the truth. You’d think from the way they handled this that it was 1969 and not 2019.”
USFS Executive Director David Raith said in January that it was “imperative” that SafeSport complete its investigation and encouraged it to hire a “third-party investigator or outside counsel” to provide assistance. In a statement on Tuesday, U.S. Figure Skating said the safety and well-being of athletes continued to be a “top priority.”
“We fully support all victims of sexual abuse and misconduct and encourage anyone who either has been abused or suspects abuse or misconduct to report it to local law enforcement, the U.S. Center for SafeSport or U.S. Figure Skating,” it said. “We condemn any and all acts of bullying and shaming of those who share their story. Bullying and victim-shaming are wrong and will not be tolerated.”
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