Rick Butler lawsuit gets contentious with claims he might move overseas

SHARE Rick Butler lawsuit gets contentious with claims he might move overseas

Rick Butler during a volleyball camp in 2014. | Stacie Scott/Lincoln Journal Star

One side wants to know if powerhouse volleyball coach Rick Butler is getting ready to move overseas to dodge a federal lawsuit accusing him of sexually abusing players.

The other wants to know if this is all “some type of smear campaign.”

Things quickly turned contentious Tuesday in the civil case over sexual abuse claims that have haunted Butler for decades.

Laura Mullen, whose daughters once played in Butler’s Sports Performance Volleyball club, claims Butler and his wife deceived parents and youth athletes about Butler’s past to get them to join their club in Aurora.

Mullen’s attorneys are now asking a judge to let them gather evidence that would show whether the Butlers are misleading people who might join the class-action lawsuit by insisting it is “frivolous.” The lawyers also want to know whether Butler and his wife are transferring assets and traveling overseas “to avoid the potential judgment.”

Butler’s lawyers did not respond to messages seeking comment. The new filing indicates Butler was “shocked” by Mullen’s lawsuit. The two sides are due in court to discuss the request Monday.

The document filed Tuesday by Mullen’s attorneys at Edelson PC says Butler’s name has been “scrubbed” from the Sports Performance website. It also claims the Butlers may have traveled overseas, including to Brazil, in an attempt to set up a volleyball business and to “find employment in a foreign volleyball market that knows nothing about Rick Butler’s misconduct.”

Butler attorney Donald Angelini assured Mullen’s attorneys on March 16 “that he was ‘100% certain’ that Mr. Butler was not transferring assets,” according to the filing. But then, when pressed on the issue, it says Angelini said he “couldn’t commit to anything.”

The filing also alleges that Butler’s lawyers hung up on Mullen’s legal team.

In an email attached to the court filing, Angelini insisted the summary by Mullen’s attorneys “misses the basic premise which is that it would be ludicrous for anybody to start to move money around in the face of a baseless and frivolous lawsuit.”

He added that: “Nobody would do it. Nobody.”

“Next, I want you to guarantee me that this case is actually about money, which is what you’ve pleaded, and not some type of smear campaign which is exactly what it feels like to me,” Angelini wrote to Mullen’s lawyers. “I have serious concerns about that.”

In the emails, Mullen lawyer Jay Edelson challenged Angelini to have Butler’s wife, Cheryl, produce “the full results of the 5 lie detector tests that Rick claims to have taken.”

Mullen’s lawsuit alleges that Butler “used his position of power to sexually abuse no fewer than six underage teenage girls,” and that Cheryl Butler concealed his abuse by pressuring and threatening victims.

Mullen pulled her daughters from Butler’s program after Butler pressured one of them to play in a tournament in China even though the girl’s father was seriously ill, according to the lawsuit. It says she missed her father’s death as a result. Mullen learned of the sexual abuse allegations in Butler’s past after she decided to leave the program, according to the complaint.

Butler has previously insisted he has “never sexually abused any individual.”

The lawsuit is the most significant assault yet on Butler’s career. Since the start of 2018, he has been banned by the Amateur Athletic Union and the Junior Volleyball Association. USA Volleyball, the sport’s national governing body, also announced a ban in January.

This all comes more than 20 years after USA Volleyball first banned Butler from its ranks. That happened in 1995 after 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.

The allegations of another Butler accuser, Beth Rose, were first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times in the November series “Net Pains.” And Mullen’s lawsuit alleged Butler raped a sophomore player in his shower in the 1980s.

The coach has never been charged with a crime, though his accusers say the relevant statutes of limitation had expired before they came forward.

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