A federal judge in California has said he is prepared to order U.S. immigration authorities to explain why they allowed an Irish Olympic swimming coach charged with sexual abuse to enter the United States in the 1990s and remain in the country.
SFGate reports that U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco said that unless the Department of Homeland Security reached an agreement with freelance journalist Irvin Muchnick, who went to court asking for information on the Irishman’s case, he would order the agency to reveal information about the former swimming coach’s alleged crimes and their decision to admit him into the country.
George Gibney was charged with sexually abusing young female swimmers in the 1960s and 1970s. However, in 1994, Ireland’s Supreme Court dismissed the charges because the legal deadline for prosecution had expired.
In a tentative written ruling on Wednesday, Judge Breyer said U.S. immigration officials should disclose what they knew about the Irishman’s past when they made the decision to issue him a visa.
“The public has a strong interest in understanding how and why their government allowed a man with a far-worse-than-checkered past (and perhaps present) to stay here for more than two decades,” said Breyer.
On his website, Muchnick has written articles accusing USA Swimming, the sport’s national governing body, of covering up coaches’ abuse of swimmers.
“What needs to come out of this is accountability for swimming authorities in Ireland and the U.S.,” said the Berkeley journalist.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, Muchnick requested documents showing what immigration officials knew about Gibney’s history and whether they should have deported him, either for his alleged crimes or for any misrepresentations he made on his application.
SFGate reports that officials refused to hand over 43 pages of records, claiming that disclosure could violate Gibney’s privacy or compromise confidential law enforcement decisions.
Judge Breyer, who was allowed to examine the records, rejected officials’ arguments.
The judge said that the documents reveal what officials knew about the Irishman’s past and how they performed their duties.
“Given Gibney’s past,” he said, those details are “enough to warrant a belief by a reasonable person that — perhaps — more should have been done.”
Abraham Simmons, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, which represented the immigration agency, declined to comment on the ruling.
Gibney, now in his late 60s, was last reported to be living in Altamonte Springs, Fla.. He has not spoken to the media about his case and is not represented by a lawyer.
In his ruling, Breyer referred to the “sordid history” of organized amateur swimming in Ireland, noting that Frank McCann, a former Irish team manager, confessed in 1992 to murdering his wife and child so they wouldn’t discover that he had fathered a child with an underage swimmer. And in 1998, former Irish Olympic team coach Derry O’Rourke pleaded guilty to 29 counts of sexually abusing young female swimmers.