A lawsuit accusing powerhouse youth volleyball coach Rick Butler of sexually abusing teenage girls in the 1980s made national headlines earlier this year.
And publicly, Butler and his wife have had little to say about it.
But newly filed court records show the couple, in private emails, have repeatedly denied the claims and promised to file “several lawsuits” over the “horrific allegations” that gained new traction this year.
Meanwhile, the attorney behind the initial lawsuit is accusing the Butlers of intimidation. He is asking a judge for sanctions, making his case with the emails that lend some limited insight into how the Butlers have reacted to the controversy.
One, signed “Rick & Cheryl,” describes the case as “a systematic attempt to completely destroy everything Cheryl and I have been working to build over the past 30+ years. They want to put us out of business.”
Discussing the woman who sued them, Cheryl Butler allegedly wrote in another email, “we will be counter suing her!” It’s not clear if that’s still the Butlers’ plan.
Finally, Cheryl Butler claimed the couple had “proof” that would eventually undermine the lawsuit and lead to its dismissal.
An attorney representing the Butlers, who run Sports Performance Volleyball Club in Aurora, did not comment when asked about the filings, which include the emails.
So far this year, Butler has been banned by the massive Amateur Athletic Union and the Wisconsin-based Junior Volleyball Association. USA Volleyball also announced a ban in January, and Walt Disney World Resorts has said he is not welcome on its property.
The proposed class-action lawsuit, filed by Laura Mullen, alleges Butler “used his position of power to sexually abuse no fewer than six underage teenage girls” and that Cheryl Butler concealed the abuse by pressuring and threatening victims. Mullen’s daughters played at the Butlers’ club, but she claims she wouldn’t have paid the fees had she known about the allegations against Butler.
Mullen’s lawyer, Jay Edelson, argues the Butlers’ talk of lawsuits is meant to intimidate anyone who might join Mullen.
The Butlers claim in the emails to possess correspondence from Mullen that shows she knew about the sexual abuse allegations. However, Edelson points out they offered no such evidence when they asked a judge to toss the case a few weeks ago.
When Edelson asked the Butlers’ lawyer, Danielle D’Ambrose, about the evidence during a recent phone call, D’Ambrose said, “I’m not going to tell you whether or not that’s something that we have,” according to a transcript of the conversation filed by Edelson.
“You asked if Laura Mullen knew that Rick was raping people,” D’Ambrose told Edelson during a heated back-and-forth in the transcript. “I said that we’ve denied that it took place, so there’s no way that she could know that Rick was raping people when we denied that rape took place.”
D’Ambrose also initially told Edelson she did not expect the Butlers to file a counterclaim against Mullen. However, she said, “It’s absolutely something we considered.”
And, as Edelson continued to push, D’Ambrose said, “Jay, I’m telling you right now, it could happen.”
The two sides are due back in court Thursday.