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Figure skating coach Richard Callaghan sued by former athlete, alleging sexual abuse and coverup

Defendants include three governing bodies, accused for turning a blind eye to rampant misconduct.
Image: Figureskater Craig Maurizi  testifies on Capitol Hill
Figureskater Craig Maurizi testifies on Capitol Hill on April 18, 2018.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file

A former competitive figure skater on Monday filed a $10 million lawsuit against one of the sport's most celebrated coaches, accusing him of sexual abuse that dates back to the 1970s.

The federal civil action, filed in Buffalo by Craig Maurizi, targeted renowned coach Richard Callaghan and three figure skating organizations that allegedly turned a blind eye to his rampant misconduct.

"Callaghan used his position of trust and authority to groom Craig psychologically for what turned into nearly a decade of sexual abuse," according to a complaint written by Maurizi's attorney Ilene Jaroslaw.

"Callaghan's conduct was that of a textbook child sexual predator."

The 57-year-old Buffalo native Maurizi also named the Buffalo Skating Club, the Professional Skaters Association and the U.S. Figure Skating Association as co-defentants.

Callaghan did not immediately return multiple phone and email messages seeing their responses on Monday.

The Buffalo Skating Club declined to speak on the matter, and referred all questions to its parent organization, the U.S. Figure Skating Association.

The U.S. Figure Skating Association declined to comment.

The Professional Skaters Association said it had not received the lawsuit yet. "PSA is committed to the safety of athletes and reports all claims of abuse to the U.S. Center for SafeSport and local authorities," PSA spokeswoman Elizabeth Thornton said in a statement Monday.

Callaghan "was pushed out of" the Buffalo Skating Club in 1980 "in part because of his abuse of Craig," according to the complaint.

"Rather than take any steps to stop Callaghan's abuse, such as making an official report to USFS, PSA, or law enforcement, BSC instead foisted him on another skating club, the Philadelphia Skating Club," the lawsuit continued. "Upon information and belief, it was widely known among members of USFS and PSA that Callaghan had been pushed out of BSC because of his abuse of Craig and others."

The Buffalo Skating Club knew the coach kept alcohol in his office when he was based in western New York and regularly shared the alcohol with minors, according to the lawsuit.

“BSC was aware of Callaghan’s abuse of Craig, but permitted Callaghan to continue to use their facilities for his illegal and illicit activities,” the complaint said.

Alcohol was a key component to the sexual abuse, the former figure skater said.

“As the sexual activity increased, Callaghan began taking Craig to bars,” according to the lawsuit.

“Upon information and belief, numerous members of USFS and PSA were aware that Callaghan was providing Craig, his underage student, with alcohol and bringing him to bars.”

Also, the plaintiff claimed a Zamboni driver from Buffalo Skating Club walked in on Callaghan sexually abusing a minor and reported that incident to the board of directors but no action was taken.

And as far back as the 1970s, U.S. Figure Skating Association officials regularly warned young male skaters not to be alone with Callaghan, according to the lawsuit.

Last year, Callaghan was banned for life by the U.S. Center for Safesport, the federally recognized watchdog of the U.S. Olympics community, after allegations of sexual misconduct were leveled at the famed coach by another skater, Adam Schmidt.

That lifetime ban was later reduced to a three-year suspension.

Callaghan is best known for coaching then-unheralded Tara Lipinski to the gold medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. He also tutored Todd Eldredge to gold at the 1996 world championships in Edmonton.

The coach has steadily denied any wrongdoing.

At the time of the ban, Callaghan's attorney, Dean Groulx, told NBC News he believes the Safesport investigation was a "witch hunt."

Maurizi is seeking $10 million in addition to punitive damages to "deter their willful and wanton conduct," his lawsuit said.

The plaintiff has been a longtime, outspoken critic of amateur sports federations for not doing more to curb sexual abuse of athletes.

Maurizi said he's only able to sue his former coach and the governing bodies after legislation, signed into law in New York in 2019, allowed victims of decades-old misconduct to file lawsuits.

The alleged abuse began when Maurizi, who now lives in New Jersey, was a child in New York and his lawsuit was filed in federal court because all the defendants reside in states outside of Maurizi's New Jersey, the plaintiff's lawyer said.

Callaghan lives in Florida, while the Professional Skaters Association is based in Minnesota, the U.S. Figure Skating in Colorado and Buffalo Skating Club in New York.