The controversy swirling around suburban youth volleyball coach Rick Butler reached the nation’s capital this week, where a local congresswoman declared Butler “should have been in jail” after sexual abuse allegations first surfaced in the 1990s.
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky made her comment during a hearing Wednesday held to examine the Olympic community’s ability to protect athletes from sexual abuse. The hearing took place across the street from the U.S. Capitol.
Among those to testify was Jamie Davis, CEO of USA Volleyball, who recounted the lifetime ban his organization recently handed Butler based on allegations Butler sexually abused players in the 1980s. Butler has denied the accusations.
But USA Volleyball had banned Butler once before — in 1995 — only to rescind the ban conditionally five years later. Schakowsky called his reinstatement “just shocking.”
“This really underscores the problem that has occurred over so many years,” Schakowsky said Wednesday. “Anyone in this room, I think certainly the women, know if someone has abused underage girls, reinstating him is so unacceptable. He should have been in jail. And now, in today’s world, I think he would have. I hope he would have.”
Schakowsky, a Democrat whose district spans Chicago’s North Side and several north suburbs, made her comment during the hearing held by the House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee.
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Danielle D’Ambrose, Butler’s attorney, said Schakowsky’s comment “does not accurately reflect the facts regarding Rick Butler’s reinstatement with USA Volleyball or the allegations from 30 years ago.”
“We will not fight this in the court of public opinion,” D’Ambrose said in an email. “We will continue to vigorously defend any allegations which have been stated against Rick Butler, both now and in the past, in the context of the lawsuit that was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.”
That proposed class-action lawsuit also drew D’Ambrose to a federal courtroom in Chicago on Thursday. The complaint alleges Butler “used his position of power to sexually abuse no fewer than six underage teenage girls.”
Central to the case is whether Butler deceived a parent whose daughters played at his Sports Performance Volleyball Club in Aurora by not revealing he’d been accused of sexually abusing players. During Thursday’s brief hearing, D’Ambrose argued the truth of the sexual abuse claims should not be at issue in the case.
D’Ambrose has previously characterized many of the allegations in the lawsuit as “hearsay or hearsay within hearsay.”
Two of the women who have accused Butler of sexual abuse, Sarah Powers-Barnhard and Julie Romias, also testified in a legislative hearing last week. They told a state senate task force in Springfield another alleged victim of Butler’s was threatened into silence.
Butler has also been banned this year by the Amateur Athletic Union and the Junior Volleyball Association.