Volleyball coach Rick Butler hit with class-action lawsuit over sex abuse claims

CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) - Powerhouse youth volleyball coach Rick Butler and his wife have been hit with a class-action lawsuit accusing Butler of using “his position of power to sexually abuse no fewer than six underage teenage girls” and deceiving parents and youth to join his volleyball club, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

The 72-page lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Chicago, also claims Cheryl Butler “actively concealed” her husband’s abuses for years “by pressuring his victims — often by threatening to end their futures in the game — to remain silent.”

“At no time have defendants or any of their employees given parents or players disclosures regarding the true extent of Butler’s sexual misconduct.”

The lawsuit was filed by Laura Mullen, the parent of a former player at the Butlers’ Sports Performance Volleyball Club in Aurora. It claims that, had Mullen and others known “that a child sexual predator would coach their teenage daughters, they never would have given money to defendants and never would have sent their girls to Sports Performance.”

Mullen is being represented on a pro bono basis by Edelson PC.

Neither the Butlers nor their attorneys could immediately be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Decades-old sexual abuse allegations have finally caught up with Rick Butler this year. Since the start of 2018, he has been banned by the massive Amateur Athletic Union and the Wisconsin-based Junior Volleyball Association. USA Volleyball, the sport’s national governing body, also announced a ban in January.

Though all three have given vague explanations for their bans, USA Volleyball later updated its statement to explain that it had “received allegations of sexual misconduct and abusive coaching practices against Mr. Butler” which led it “to bring a disciplinary action” against him.

Butler is the highly successful youth coach responsible for Sports Performance Volleyball in Aurora.

This all came 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.

Butler says he has “never sexually abused any individual,” but he has conceded he had sex with Powers-Barnhard, Romias and Tuzi. He said that happened after they were no longer minors and no longer on his team.

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

USA Volleyball partially rescinded its first ban in 2000. The organization filed a new complaint in December 2016 based, in part, on allegations by another woman, Beth Rose. She alleged that Butler sexually abused her in 1983, when she was 16, while he was sharing an apartment with her mother.

The Chicago Sun-Times first reported on those allegations in November in the series “Net Pains.”

The USA Volleyball complaint also noted a fifth alleged sexual abuse victim had “elected to remain silent.” And it identified a woman — who asked that her name not be published — who claimed Butler made inappropriate comments toward her when she was a player on his team. She has declined to comment to the Sun-Times.

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