By Sara Jean Green | The Seattle Times
The North Whidbey Park and Recreation District has settled a lawsuit for $1.3 million, its third since last year involving women who were molested in the mid-1990s by their swim coach, serial pedophile Andrew King.
A fourth woman filed a lawsuit against the district on July 1, seeking damages for the abuse she allegedly suffered as a member of the Aquajets, an Oak Harbor swim team King coached between 1994 and 1997, according to attorney Lincoln Beauregard.
In June 2012, the district agreed to a $1.5 million settlement for a then-29-year-old King County woman. She reported the abuse to Oak Harbor police in 2000, but no charges were filed because a detective determined there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed.
In October, another woman was awarded a $2.1 million settlement from the district for sexual abuse committed by King. The district’s insurance company paid all three settlements, Beauregard said.
Bill Walker, the director of the North Whidbey Parks and Recreation District, was out of the office attending meetings Thursday, and referred a Times reporter to the district’s attorney, Chris Kerley, in an email message sent just after 5 p.m. By then, Kerley’s law office had closed for the day and Kerley could not immediately be reached for comment.
All four women were between 11 and 14 when they were allegedly abused by King, and are now 29 to 32, said Beauregard.
King was arrested in 2009 in San Jose, Calif., on 20 counts of child molestation, a case that brought to light details of his predatory behavior against young girls over a nearly 30-year span.
Now 65, King is serving a 40-year prison sentence in California for abusing more than a dozen young girls, including one whom he impregnated before he moved to Washington.
At least one of King’s Washington victims attended King’s sentencing hearing, alongside a number of his California victims, Beauregard said.
“There was a groundswell of victims that came together and had a dialogue about what happened,” leading women abused by King in Oak Harbor to reach out to Beauregard to represent them, he said.
According to the lawsuits filed by Beauregard and co-counsel Jay Krulewitch, a number of parents, including one who was a parks commissioner at the time, raised concerns about King’s behavior toward his young female swimmers.
He was often seen with a young girl seated on his lap during swim practices, and was known to take girls to dinner and send them flowers as part of his grooming process, Beauregard said.
The lawsuits all alleged the district failed to adequately look into King’s background before hiring him, then failed to conduct annual reviews of his performance that could have led to his firing before he mysteriously left the district “under a cloud.”
“Unfortunately, he was an impeccable coach,” said Beauregard.
“Many parents complained, but (parks district) board members didn’t take action,” he said. “On top of that, Andrew King was a clever, charismatic person. … The guy was bold in his actions, and I don’t think you can be that bold unless you think people aren’t going to do anything.”
While it’s been “incredibly difficult to reach a settlement in each of these cases,” Beauregard said he thinks highly of the district’s current management and board, which seems to have taken steps “to take responsibility for the mistakes that were made in the ’90s” and ensure the protection of children involved in its programs.