An Olympia-based youth soccer club and a former coach are facing a lawsuit alleging that the coach had a sexual relationship with a teenage player, and that the club did nothing to prevent the abuse.
Tacoma attorneys Darrell Cochran and Kevin Hastings filed the suit in Thurston County Superior Court in September on behalf of the now 23-year-old female victim. David E. Cross, his wife Kimberly S. Cross and the Black Hills Football Club are all named as defendants in the case.
The complaint alleges that in 2010, when the victim was 17, soccer coach Cross convinced her to have sex with him, following years of grooming.
“He completely took advantage of her,” Cochran said. “It was a totally inappropriate relationship.”
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Olympia attorney Sax Rodgers, who has been hired to represent Cross, declined to comment on the lawsuit to The Olympian.
Club President Scott Kee said that Cross was placed on leave from his coaching duties when the victim came forward with the accusations, and let go a short time later. He had been a paid employee with the club for more than a decade.
“Once we found out about the allegations, we immediately pulled him off the field,” Kee said.
He said that before the victim came forward in January, club officials were unaware of any alleged abuse or wrongdoing.
Cross also worked as an assistant soccer coach for Saint Martin’s University. Genevieve Chan, a university spokeswoman, said that Cross began coaching as a volunteer in 2008, and was hired in 2009. He resigned in spring of this year.
She also said that Cross worked primarily with the men’s team, but occasionally assisted with the women’s team.
The civil lawsuit comes several months after criminal charges against Cross were considered by the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office. Deputy Prosecutor Megan Winder said the potential charge, first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor, has a three-year statute of limitation.
“With the facts and information that I had, I was unable to charge it based on the statute of limitation issue,” Winder said.
Cross had also briefly fallen under the suspicion of the Lacey Police Department, after he was contacted by officers February of 2010 with the victim in his van.
According to the police report, an officer responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle parked on Beckonridge Lane SE just after 9 p.m. The reporting party said the van had been parked for about an hour.
The officer found Cross, then 45, and the victim inside the van. The victim initially told the officer that she was 18, but later admitted that she was 17.
The victim said that Cross had pulled off of the road after feeling dizzy, and they had been talking. The officer wrote in the report that he believed Cross’s actions were, “highly suspect and inappropriate.”
The victim’s father picked her up and took her home, and said he would talk to his daughter about the incident. The officer forwarded the case to detectives, according to the police report.
A press release from Cochran and Hastings characterized the case as a failure of the criminal justice system.
“The criminal justice system may have failed her, but she is determined not to let this happen to another youth player,” Hastings said. “She wants the truth to be known and forcing these defendants to answer in civil court appears to be the only way that’s going to ever happen.”
In the complaint, Hastings and Cochran wrote that the Black Hills Football Club is at fault because they, “knew or should have known that a soccer coach could or would exploit these youth soccer players.”
They allege that the club didn’t have policies in place to prevent coaches from engaging in social interactions with players, texting and calling players for personal reasons, or spending time alone with players.
But Kee said that at the time of the alleged abuse, the club did have a coach-player interaction policy in place to protect the players. The policy prohibits coaches from transporting individual players to and from matches and practices. It directs that off-field communications between players and coaches should go through the team manager when possible, and should always remain professional.
The policy also prohibits coaches from dating players, or former players younger than 18.
Cross’ case isn’t the first in which a Black Hills Football Club coach was accused of an inappropriate relationship with a player. In 2002, former coach Dennis Jones was arrested and charged with five counts of sexual misconduct with a minor, and one count of providing liquor to a minor.
A player had come forward and alleged she and Jones had sexual contact several times between 1998 and 2000, beginning when she was 15 and Jones was in his 30s.
Like Cross, Jones was represented by Rodgers. Jones eventually pleaded guilty to one count of fourth-degree assault. He was sentenced to 365 days in custody, with 359 days suspended. He received credit for the six days he had already spent in jail.
Kee said that besides Jones and Cross’s cases, there have no other reports of sexual abuse by coaches at the Black Hills Football Club.