Suit alleges Puyallup coach lied about girl who accused him of assault

A Pierce County civil jury is deliberating whether a Puyallup youth coach caused suffering by how he talked about a player he is convicted of touching improperly.

The coach was charged in May 2012 with fourth-degree assault with sexual motivations for alleged acts upon the girl, now 12.

Court records show he pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault — which he defined in a handwritten plea as “unpermitted and/or offensive contact” — in November 2013. He received two years’ probation.

The girl’s family filed the lawsuit against the coach and his wife, co-owner of the couple’s business, in 2014.

The News Tribune is not naming the family who is suing because of the girl’s age and because she was the victim of an assault. The newspaper is not naming the coach while the lawsuit is pending.

The suit alleged the couple “engaged in a community-wide marketing effort to minimize the damage to their business” through spreading “untruths” about the girl, according to court filings.

In a written declaration, another mother, whose twin girls the man coached, said he called the girl now suing him “an awful child with emotional problems” after police came to his business to investigate the allegation.

In the same filing, the mother alleges the coach also engaged in “uncomfortable” words and touching when coaching her twin daughters.

Jurors began deliberations Tuesday after closing arguments Monday.

“I asked them to consider how victims of assault should be treated when they come forward and whether or not the way that played out in this case is appropriate,” said the girl’s lawyer, James Beck, in a telephone interview, “and what the justice should be to address it."

Beck also is an attorney for The News Tribune.

In a trial brief, Beck wrote that the girl suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and “extreme emotional distress” because of the situation.

The coach’s lawyer, Thomas P. McCurdy, said Tuesday via email that his client denied the allegations in the lawsuit. Court transcripts show McCurdy told jurors in his opening statement his client is “a terrible communicator” but that he had not “ruined” the girl.

“She is, in fact, a superstar, functioning at an extraordinary high level in every area,” McCurdy told jurors, according to the transcript.

Court transcripts state that in testimony Oct. 21, the coach said that after police approached him about the girl’s allegation, his wife circulated a letter asking the basketball academy’s customers to write letters of support.

The letter named the girl.

The coach testified he also made calls to people who wrote letters and discussed his suspicions about the girl’s motivations “if they asked.”

Jurors reached no decision Tuesday and are to resume deliberations Thursday after the Veterans Day holiday.

Derrick Nunnally: 253-597-8693, @dcnunnally