$1.5M settlement in woman’s claim of 1990s sex abuse by swim coach

By JENNIFER SULLIVAN | The Seattle Times

A 29-year-old King County woman who said that her coach molested her while she was on an Oak Harbor swim team nearly 18 years ago will receive a $1.5 million settlement from the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District to compensate for the abuse, according to her lawyers.

Andrew King, 64, is serving a 40-year prison sentence in California for abusing more than a dozen young girls, impregnating one, in that state before moving to Washington. He coached the Aquajets, a team in Oak Harbor, from 1994 until 1997, according to the woman’s civil suit against the district.

Though the King County woman reported the abuse to Oak Harbor police in 2000, charges were never filed against King. According to a police report that is part of the civil court file, Detective Teri Gardner did not believe there was enough evidence to proceed with the case.

It wasn’t until 2009, when King was arrested by police in San Jose, Calif., for child-sex abuse, that details about his nearly 30 years of predatory behavior came to light, said San Jose lawyer Robert Allard. King was given the equivalent of a life sentence for his crimes in January 2010.

“Andy King is a serial pedophile,” said Allard, who represented one of King’s California victims. “He preyed on girls who were under his domain and control when he coached them.”

Two more of King’s former Oak Harbor swimmers have come forward and alleged they were also molested while on the team, said Tacoma lawyer Lincoln Beauregard. One has hired the Tacoma firm that represented the King County woman in her civil claim to file a similar action against the park district.

Like their former teammate, they claim that King molested them while he was their coach in the mid-1990s, said Beauregard, who is representing the woman alongside lawyers Jay Krulewitch and Michael Kolker.

The 29-year-old King County woman, who initially sought $15 million in damages from the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District, said in an email to The Seattle Times that she considers herself “very fortunate in that Andrew King was an unabashed pedophile and not a murderer, as the two are often tightly woven.”

The Times is not naming the woman because she is the alleged victim of sex crimes.

Officials with the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District could not be reached for comment.

The woman went to Oak Harbor police in 2000 and claimed that King had groped and fondled her between 1994 and 1997, according to her lawyers. At the time, none of her teammates had also claimed they had been abused, Beauregard said.

The case was left “open,” but it’s unclear whether investigators pursued it after 2000.

Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said that in 2000 “there was a lot of suspicion” about King’s behavior while coaching the Oak Harbor team.

“We didn’t have any corroborating evidence,” Banks said. “The fact he was convicted in California is not evidence in our cases.”

In California, King was investigated by several Northern California police departments for alleged sex acts with children dating back to the 1970s, according to a report by San Leandro police. King engaged in sex acts with his swimmers, and he also called some of the girls his “girlfriends,” the San Leandro Police Department investigation said. A copy of the police report is included in the King County woman’s case file.

One of the women said that she was 10 when the sex acts started occurring in the late 1970s. She said that she was 14 when King impregnated her, according to San Leandro police.

Allard sued USA Swimming, the national governing body for competitive swimming and the organization that certifies coaches, on behalf of one of King’s California victims. King had been a certified coach since the 1970s. Allard said the suit was settled for an undisclosed sum.

“With sexual-molestation victims, they are under a spell with these coaches,” Allard said.

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