Judge on Rick Butler claims: ‘The public should absolutely be aware’

SHARE Judge on Rick Butler claims: ‘The public should absolutely be aware’

Volleyball coach Rick Butler | Stacie Scott/Lincoln Journal Star

A DuPage County judge on Thursday sealed a five-page internal complaint filed by volleyball’s national governing body that contains new sexual abuse allegations against star volleyball coach Rick Butler — but he did so reluctantly.

“The public should absolutely be aware of this,” DuPage County Judge Robert Rohm said during a hearing.

The judge said potential customers of the youth coach’s Aurora-based Sports Performance Volleyball, including “parents that are going to send their kids there,” should especially be alerted to new claims first reported last month by the Chicago Sun-Times.

But Rohm ultimately agreed to seal the document to protect the alleged victims it identifies. He also warned that he would not seal any document in the case for any other reason going forward.

Butler faces expulsion from USA Volleyball as early as Friday on a related matter, and his attorneys have made clear they will take any such decision to court.

Sexual abuse allegations have dogged Butler for 22 years. USA Volleyball banned him from its ranks “for life” in 1995 after three former players — Sarah Powers-Barnhard, Julie Romias and Christine Tuzi — alleged he sexually abused them in the 1980s while he was their coach and they were under 18.

Butler has said through his attorney he has “never sexually abused any individual.” He has conceded he had sex with all three women, but only after they were no longer minors and were no longer on his team.

USA Volleyball partially rescinded Butler’s ban in 2000. His teams also participate in other youth sports organizations, including the massive Amateur Athletic Union.

However, USA Volleyball filed a new complaint against Butler in December 2016 seeking to expel him based in part on allegations by Beth Rose of Norridge, who claims Butler sexually abused her in 1983, when she was 16, while he shared an apartment with her mother.

The complaint also notes a fifth alleged sexual abuse victim has “elected to remain silent.” And it identifies a woman — who asked that her name not be published — who claims Butler made inappropriate comments toward her when she was a player on his team. She has declined to comment.

Butler now faces parallel proceedings revolving around that document. He faces a hearing that would likely deal with the substance of the document starting on Jan. 8, records show.

But after the Chicago Sun-Times series “Net Pains” detailed the new allegations against Butler, USA Volleyball filed yet another complaint alleging Butler improperly revealed the document’s contents, records show.

The document only became public through an unsuccessful lawsuit Butler filed last January to thwart the new expulsion efforts.

USA Volleyball alleges that document was subject to a protective order forbidding its disclosure. Butler’s attorney, Tracy Stanker, told Rohm a USA Volleyball hearing on that matter is scheduled for Friday. It’s not clear if USA Volleyball will immediately decide whether to discipline Butler.

The attorneys representing Butler and USA Volleyball appeared in court Thursday to ask the judge to seal USA Volleyball’s December 2016 complaint. They thought it had been sealed by court order in January, but the complaint remained public until this week.

Rohm acknowledged his own role in the earlier failure to seal the document, faulting alternately “nobody” and “all three” parties — including the court.

“For my role in that, I sincerely apologize to the both of you,” Rohm said.

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