FLORIDA, November 21, 2022—-A set of new lawsuits alleging a pattern of sexual abuse at an Orlando cheerleading gym have been filed by a South Carolina law firm at a federal court in Florida. The three lawsuits were filed separately Friday in the Middle District of Florida. This makes seven total lawsuits brought by the Strom Law Firm against a cheerleading gym and the sport’s governing bodies since August. The lawsuits allege that Erick Kristianson, a coach and manager of the Champion Elite Legacy cheerleading gym in Orlando, groomed and sexually assaulted three young girls after becoming close with their families. The three girls were around 10 years old in 2019, when Jane Doe 2 began cheering at Champion Elite Legacy.
While Kristianson allegedly repeatedly exposed himself to young athletes and was known in the gym as “Creepy Erick,” he successfully ingratiated himself with parents of the young athletes, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuits allege that Kristianson, 43, insinuated his way into the lives of his victims. He bonded over faith with Mary Doe, the mother of Jane Does 1 and 2, by describing his religious upbringing and introducing her to his mother, according to the lawsuit. He also allegedly took pains to make friends with Joseph Doe, the father of Jane Doe 3.
Mary Doe only became aware that something was wrong when her older daughter, Jane Doe 1, grew sullen and withdrawn, according to the lawsuit. Despite the Florida climate, she started wearing “only wear baggy, oversized sweatpants and sweatshirts” and a rift developed between the sisters, according to the lawsuit. Around July 2022, the law suits say that Mary Doe confronted Jane Doe 1 about what was going on. Her daughter then allegedly showed her videos of Kristianson’s sexually abusive behavior toward her and other girls, including Jane Doe 3.
The videos allegedly included scenes of Kristianson masturbating in the shower in front of underage girls and showing them his penis on FaceTime. Jane Does 1 said that she made the videos because she was afraid “nobody would believe her if she disclosed the abuse,” according to the lawsuit. The suits go on to describe a wide-ranging pattern of Kristianson molesting and exposing himself to underage athletes.
It was also alleged in one of the lawsuits that Kristianson played a game with Jane Doe 2 that he called “Jeepers Creepers,” where he would interrogate her about sex and molest her in the front seat of his car. After reporting him to the police, Kristianson fled. He was arrested in Kansas on Aug. 4. He was extradited to Florida and arraigned on the charges. A PATTERN OF ABUSE The three lawsuits also name that Dr. Ashley Hughes, a chiropractor and owner of Champion Elite Legacy, as a defendant. It’s alleged that was aware of the allegations of Kristianson’s inappropriate behavior.
The girl’s parents allege that after reporting Kristianson to police they found out that the gym was aware of multiple complaints against Kristianson, including one where he wore short shorts without underwear and exposed his penis to young cheerleaders. In the pattern of their past lawsuits, the Strom Law Firm allege that what happened to the three girls was was the product of a vast culture of abuse in competitive cheerleading. The lawsuits allege that the gym and various Varsity Brand affiliated companies formed a conspiracy that put profits over safety and disregarded complaints that coaches and other adults were abusing the young athletes.
As in their other lawsuits, the Strom Law Firm has also named the U.S. All Star Federation, competitive cheerleading’s main regulatory body, and Varsity Brands, the leading cheerleading merchandizer and competition organizer. Also named is Varsity’s founder, Jeff Webb, and its current owners, the Boston-based private equity firms Bain Capital and Charlesbank. Varsity has recently fired back against these allegations, calling them “sham lawsuits” and accusing the Strom Law Firm of being “self-aggrandizing.”
Vasity’s lawyer, Thomas Clare of the Clare Locke Firm, has demanded evidence of the claim repeated across many lawsuits that Varsity as a “central player” promoting access to minors at events where they were abused.
The Does are being represented by Columbia attorney Bakari Sellers, along with Jessica Fickling and Alexandra Benevento. They are also being represented locally by Gregorio Francis and J. Robert Bell III. Sellers, a former South Carolina lawmaker, has brought many of the cheerleading sex abuse lawsuits that multiplied since the death of prominent coach Scott Foster in August.
Foster, the founder and owner of Rockstar Cheer in Greenville, killed himself after it was revealed that he was under investigation by Homeland Security. Since Foster’s death, multiple lawsuits have been filed alleging a culture of rampant sex abuse at the gym.
Source:The State wrote the original article.