After $32 million verdict, 4 other sex abuse lawsuits against California high school coaches await trial

In the early 1990s, rumors traveled through the halls of Pomona High School that a group of coaches were plying young cheerleaders and track stars with weed and alcohol in their offices, and sexually abusing them on and off campus. The coaches drove them around in their cars, took them to parties and treated them like girlfriends.

Those are the accusations of eight Southern California women who filed lawsuits against the Pomona Unified School District and those coaches over the past three years.  Last week, for the first time, a jury ruled that one of the women deserves $35 million.

What the eight women say happened back then is slowly unfolding in court. To protect their privacy, all but one of the women are identified in court records as “Jane Doe.”

The women are mostly in their 40s now. They graduated high school more than two decades ago. Jane Doe #4 – who was awarded the $35 million – dropped out of high school before graduation, returning more than a decade later to get her GED.

Some of the women now have children who are in high school themselves. According to her attorney, Jane Doe #4’s daughter has expressed interest in track and field, giving her mother tremendous anxiety.

Four more women are still awaiting the resolution of their cases. Three others have quietly settled.

The lengthy lawsuits filed for each of the then-students allege that a group of coaches committed rampant sexual abuse at the school in the mid-1990s. The coaches were young men, mostly in their 20s and 30s.

The suits are the result of Assembly Bill 218, which passed in 2019 and provided a three-year window for anyone alleging they were a victim of sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits and claim damages. The Archdiocese of San Francisco filed for bankruptcy after several hundred lawsuits were filed under the bill.

No criminal charges were ever filed in any of the Pomona cases.

“Not coming forward is not unusual, and that’s why the statute of limitations (for the civil suits) changed,” said John Taylor, one of the attorneys representing the Jane Does. “There is now an overall awareness and a support for survivors, and a realization that you don’t attack a 14 or 15-year-old girl or boy who is groomed or sexually abused.”

The women’s allegations are similar: the coaches sought the girls out after they joined athletic programs, coaxed them to spend time alone in offices and locker rooms, and repeatedly harassed, groped and assaulted them.

Some of the Jane Does reported bullying, both by coaches and other students, so incessant that they left for other schools.

Jane Doe #2 alleged in her suit that when she was one of the athletes at a Las Vegas track and field meet, she was a victim of statutory rape – coerced into having sexual intercourse with Brian Crichlow, a track and field coach, in a hotel room, while she was forced to watch another coach, Kitrick Taylor, having intercourse with one of her teammates on a bed next to her.

She also said that she once was taken to Kitrick Taylor’s home and coerced into having sexual intercourse with Crichlow.

She and her legal team could not be reached for comment.

Kitrick Taylor came to the school after a stint as a wide receiver for the NFL from 1988 to 1993. He played for the Green Bay Packers, the San Diego Chargers, the Denver Broncos, and the New England Patriots. He is now retired. He has no relation to attorney John Taylor.

While Kitrick Taylor is named a defendant in only one of the cases — Jane Doe #2 — he is mentioned throughout the other cases as a witness and an enabler.

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Kitrick Taylor did not want to comment on the cases, other than to deny his involvement in an argument between himself and Jane Doe #4 that she said led to her being harassed by classmates and other coaches.

Jane Doe #8 alleged that her sexual abuse began when she was 16 years old, after she joined the track team. Coach Herman Hopson and Crichlow abused her inside a school bus on campus, and Crichlow continued to abuse her off campus, as well, she said in her suit.

Unlike the other accusers, the complaint filed for Doe #8 explains that she only realized she was a victim of sexual abuse decades later, in January 2023, after learning that other women had come forward with similar reports.

“The Pomona community is relatively small, and people knew people, and they knew things that they saw,” John Taylor said. “It was such a pervasive thing for such a long period of time that once people realized there was a way to hold the school district and the perpetrators accountable, then people were excited.”

Jane Doe #8 said she never told anyone about what she experienced, or sought help for it. Most of the Jane Does did not file police reports.

“A lot of times, the grooming has been so normalized that there’s confusion about what the sexual interaction or the relationship was about,” John Taylor said. “Survivors come forward and talk about sexual abuse at different times. There is no magic period of time that makes it more comfortable.”

Vincent Spirlin, named as a defendant in the lawsuits filed by Jane Does #5, #6, and #7, was a coach and locker room supervisor. He is accused of similar conduct to the other coaches, including sexually abusing Jane Doe #7 on campus at sporting events and coercing her into sexual intercourse.

Public records indicate that Spirlin was working as a locker attendant at a Pomona Unified school as recently as 2022.  Spirlin declined to comment, and the school district would not comment on his employment status.

At least one of the Jane Does filed a report with the Pomona Police Department, but no criminal charges were ever brought. Pomona police said that although a report had been filed, the incident was past the statute of limitations, and Las Vegas and Chino authorities had taken up their own investigations. The status of those investigations is unclear.

All of the Jane Does allege that school administrators, including a principal, knew about the abuse and simply turned a blind eye, sometimes directly discussing the relationships they had with the coaches.

The school district has not commented except to offer a statement saying that in the wake of the lawsuits, it has offered more sexual harassment training.

According to the lawsuit filed by Jane Doe #4, a school administrator she told about her abuse said they would “take care of it.” However, after relentless bullying from the coaches and other students, Jane Doe #4 moved to a different state.

The $35 million award to Jane Doe #4 represented what her legal team said was more than two decade’s worth of physical ailments, emotional trauma, and consistent anxiety stemming from the abuse she experienced.

The cases for Jane Does #5, #6, #7, and #8 are pending, with no trial dates set, according to their legal team. Jane Doe #5’s case will likely go to trial before the end of 2024.

None of the Jane Does wanted to discuss their cases.

 

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