Zimmerman suspended for 2 years by U.S. Center for SafeSport

Japanfan

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I’m not being funny. This man failed in his duty to protect a child. And what does he get? two years you can’t coach and then you can go back to your life and nothings going to happen to you. and in the meantime your wife can still work so she can support you. Your wife who should have also been a designated reporter. This man failed to do his job.
Maybe if some of these people who don’t do the right thing go to prison it will encourage the rest of the coaches who think this is no big deal and they shouldn’t have to do the right thing either to start paying attention.

And if someone who fails to protect the child has to go to prison and bad things happen to him, I don’t feel sorry for him. This could’ve been prevented. He could’ve done the right thing. But he was more interested in making sure his skaters got a medal I’m sorry, but maybe if some of these people who think doing the right thing is to hard paid some higher prices than a little slap on the wrist we wouldn’t have as many problems in skating.

One can argue that Zimmerman should have been more harshly punished.

But rape is never okay. Never. Men are traumatized by it, just as women are.
 

Artistic Skaters

Drawing Figures
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It's been a while since I was involved in coaching oversight, but as far as I remember, coaches need to be registered with U.S. Figure Skating to obtain liability insurance through the PSA. So yes, in theory, Zimmerman could coach, but he would need to have his own liability insurance, which may be difficult or overly expensive to obtain given his suspension.

Separately, given that the victim's father is a lawyer, now that Zimmerman's actions have been effectively certified as negligent by Safe Sport, I wouldn't be surprised if the family brought a civil suit against him, which could complicate efforts for him to salvage a coaching career.
I have dealt with rinks who have looked the other way regarding the liability insurance or don't check for it if the coach is a moneymaker for them. When I experienced this, it was always the private rinks. He would also still be able to coach using off-ice and off-site methods and unfortunately there are some parents who support coaches in these endeavors when they produce high level winning skaters. Unprofessional coaches figure out all kinds of ways to work the system, a la Bob Young.

One big loophole that has been closed is with ISI. Coaches now have to be in good standing with SafeSport to maintain an ISI membership. That used to be the easy "Plan B" for these coaches when the organizations weren't in sync.
 

Frau Muller

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Stephanie Stiegler was arrested last month for driving while intoxicated and is facing a third degree assault charge.

Just another upstanding citizen. Kicked a police three times in the groin & tried to bite another.
 

barbarafan

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My understanding of the story is that the girls’ coach Vinny Dispenza dared the girls to ask Morgan for dick pics (he promised to reward them with a pizza if they did), so however they sent the request all Morgan would have had to do is hit “reply”.

I’m not sure why Vinny isn’t being punished for initiating this, but maybe Safesport doesn’t have sufficient proof of his involvement.
Totally agree with this. There were 2 girls as well so often teens get brave and do silly things including dares if they have backup. At what point did vile Vinny go running to Zimmerman with his side of the story. He also threatened the girls about telling.
 

chachacha

Active Member
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On her IG stories Sylvia Fontana posted "Truth Matters!"
This is terrible, again this is somewhat Bullying to the victim and shows the type of person Sylvia is. Yes, "Truth Matter" and her husband has been suspended and she is now on probation. Terrible that she posted that shows the type of individual she is. It will be interesting how the rink will continue to keep them employed there because her husband could still technically coach, just be at any US Sanctioned events. Poor decision on Sylvia's part to post that. I wonder if a grown man ever sent pics to one of her daughters if she would try to cover that up. The whole thing is just awful
 

tony

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I don’t expect any different kinds of reactions from very minimal details coming out regarding this specific situation, but did anyone think that there are further details we don’t know, that make the suspension and probations more explainable?

I’m not going to get anywhere with people that are already mind-reading and assuming that they know everything, but there really are more layers and complications to this situation than what has been presented.
 
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okokok777

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My understanding of the story is that the girls’ coach Vinny Dispenza dared the girls to ask Morgan for dick pics (he promised to reward them with a pizza if they did), so however they sent the request all Morgan would have had to do is hit “reply”.

I’m not sure why Vinny isn’t being punished for initiating this, but maybe Safesport doesn’t have sufficient proof of his involvement.

Here is a comment I posted a few months ago in the "Morgan Cipres charged in FL" thread:

I'm going to try and expand upon this part of the story. My apologies for staying relatively vague - I try to err on the side of caution when discussing active cases. Like always, here is my disclaimer:



I 100% agree on that part of the article being really weird & confusing.

According to witnesses and digital evidence, Morgan was coaching multiple teenage girls around the time that these events occurred (along with the then 13 year old survivor). It was all being done "under the table" due to the fact that he was not a USFS member (a few coaches expressed concerns to the rink's administrative staff since he was allegedly uninsured - I haven't been able to determine if he was an ISI member yet so I can't fully confirm this but multiple people at the rink believed that he was uninsured). Also, there are other allegations of Morgan's "inappropriate" conduct with these girls (some of which may become public through future news articles, lawsuit filings or criminal charges).

A few sources have told me that Vinny's request for the pictures came after he got wind of these allegations (specifically, the ones involving the then 13 year old survivor). Granted, these sources didn't witness the actual pizza conversation so I'm not exactly sure if that's the case.

Based on the evidence that I've been able to review, my best guesses for why Vinny asked for the photos are a) he didn't really believe the allegations were true and "jokingly" asked for the photos as proof, only to be surprised when the survivor produced them or b) he asked for the photos in order to confirm the allegations. However, he could've also been asking for the photos for other reasons (manipulation, grooming, harassment, etc.)

After Vinny received the photos (i.e. the video of the survivor opening up the photos in IG since Morgan sent them using the "view-once" function), he allegedly showed them to another coach affiliated with the rink. That coach allegedly told him that what Morgan was doing was wrong and that Vinny had to report him. Vinny then went to John & Silvia and then the events that have been publicly covered took place (the intimidation, threats, slut-shaming, etc.) His motivation for participating in the cover-up/intimidation/emotional abuse of the then 13 year old girl seems to have been fear of losing his own job. However, Vinny himself is the only person who can answer that question.

Regardless of what happened, I 100% believe that he needs to be held accountable for his actions. However, while he was the instigator for the photos that are discussed in the article, he wasn't the instigator for all of Morgan's alleged misconduct.


Based on my knowledge of the case, my current theory is that Silvia's sanction was due to insufficient evidence while Vinny's was more due to a mixture of external factors:

a) While he initiated this singular "picture incident", he didn't actually initiate all of the abuse.
b) Power dynamics - IIRC at the time of the photo incident, Dispenza was a coach (he and his wife are now skating directors) while John & Silvia were head coaches. Dispenza's motivation for intimidating the survivor into silence seemed to be fear of losing his own job & pressure from John and Silvia.

I think that a six-month probation (i.e. a non-public sanction that will be completed around the start of next season) is way too lenient for any of the named parties. However, based on my knowledge of the situation, I could see how the Center justified giving Vinny the shortest sentence and John the longest. But, I would've given everyone much stricter sanctions and given John and Silvia the same sanction.

This situation reminds me a bit of Richard Callaghan's case. After arbitration, which overturned his sanctions related to sexually abusing Craig, his lifetime ban was reduced to a 3 year suspension, 15 year probation and 100 hours of community service. He was found liable for actions such as stalking, pulling a student by her ponytail so hard that clumps of her hair were yanked out, hitting/pushing/other forms of physical assault against students (mostly minors) and multiple counts of verbal harassment. Yet, for all of that, he still only got 3 years.
 

Vagabond

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I don’t expect any different kinds of reactions from very minimal details coming out regarding this specific situation, but did anyone think that there are further details we don’t know, that make the suspension and probations more explainable?
I couldn't find anything specific on the SafeSport website, but there may be policies limiting allowable penalties for the specific types of things the three were found to have done.
 

okokok777

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I couldn't find anything specific on the SafeSport website, but there may be policies limiting allowable penalties for the specific types of things the three were found to have done.

There are internal guidelines. The most severe penalties are given to those who are criminally charged or convicted of crimes related to sexual assault and/or involving a minor. The next most severe penalty involves any form of sexual misconduct involving minors (not related to criminal charges). Physical/emotional misconduct (depending on the degree), abuse of process and failure to report are usually dealt with through educational trainings, warning letters and probation - with suspensions being the most severe.
 

Vagabond

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There are internal guidelines. The most severe penalties are given to those who are criminally charged or convicted of crimes related to sexual assault and/or involving a minor. The next most severe penalty involves any form of sexual misconduct involving minors (not related to criminal charges). Physical/emotional misconduct (depending on the degree), abuse of process and failure to report are usually dealt with through educational trainings, warning letters and probation - with suspensions being the most severe.
It sounds like there are guidelines or policies, albeit unwritten ones.
 

Yuri

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463
I don’t expect any different kinds of reactions from very minimal details coming out regarding this specific situation, but did anyone think that there are further details we don’t know, that make the suspension and probations more explainable?

I’m not going to get anywhere with people that are already mind-reading and assuming that they know everything, but there really are more layers and complications to this situation than what has been presented.
Were there ever any reports that the FFSG being involved in this situation at the time the alleged incident occurred? Given the European Championships were about a month later and the Winter Olympics a month after that in February 2018, it is hard for me to imagine that the FFSG/Didier Gailhaguet would not have placed extreme pressure on John, Sylvia, and the rink management to cover it up since they were among France's top medal contenders. Assuming Cipres or his coaches made him and the FFSG aware of what was going on in December 2017--I don't recall if there were any allegations of who knew what contemporaneously. My understanding is that neither Cipres nor Zimmerman has ever made public comments.

I remember reports that when Gailhaguet was forced out for the second time back in 2020, in part, due to his role in the cover-up story involving the sexual abuse of Sarah Abitbol became public and the reports of the SafeSport investigation of the Cipres incident became public in late 2019. It seems to me that it would have been the FFSG's role to punish Cipres, including dropping him and his partner from the European, World, and Olympic teams, if they were investigating the alleged incident at that time. Part of the problem here is a lack of jurisdiction over Cipres, who doesn't compete for US Figure Skating, and who no longer trains in the USA.
 

VGThuy

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It seems like if one wants the most severe punishment, they have to get law enforcement involved and go through the criminal justice system first, then hope there’s a plea bargain where the accused accepts a conviction or that it goes to trial and that the DA gets a conviction (which may take a year or much longer), then file a complaint with SafeSport and hope whatever it was the accused was convicted of is high enough to result in suspension for a good number of years or life.

The Callaghan situation makes me sick but apparently, he got away with it procedurally. I still think SafeSport could have challenged that arbitrator’s decision up to the either the state Supreme Court (since the arbitrator applied a now-defunct New York law that required corroboration for sexual assault allegations) or a federal court of appeal. I think his rationale is highly questionable to be honest. I still can’t believe SafeSport only has one level of appeal and its final arbitration. They need to let actual courts of appeal handle this.
 

mpal2

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I think all of these stories make it very clear that Safe Sport needs to be given more authority and that there is a huge need for more transparency of individuals put on probation.

@okokok777 Thank you for the additional information. Dispenza's involvement and punishment makes more sense in light of what you've stated. I do still feel that the punishment handed out feels too light but it could be hard to prove something more along with the limitations already in place for Safe Sport.
 

okokok777

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Were there ever any reports that the FFSG being involved in this situation at the time the alleged incident occurred? Given the European Championships were about a month later and the Winter Olympics a month after that in February 2018, it is hard for me to imagine that the FFSG/Didier Gailhaguet would not have placed extreme pressure on John, Sylvia, and the rink management to cover it up since they were among France's top medal contenders. Assuming Cipres or his coaches made him and the FFSG aware of what was going on in December 2017--I don't recall if there were any allegations of who knew what contemporaneously. My understanding is that neither Cipres nor Zimmerman has ever made public comments.

I remember reports that when Gailhaguet was forced out for the second time back in 2020, in part, due to his role in the cover-up story involving the sexual abuse of Sarah Abitbol became public and the reports of the SafeSport investigation of the Cipres incident became public in late 2019. It seems to me that it would have been the FFSG's role to punish Cipres, including dropping him and his partner from the European, World, and Olympic teams, if they were investigating the alleged incident at that time. Part of the problem here is a lack of jurisdiction over Cipres, who doesn't compete for US Figure Skating, and who no longer trains in the USA.

It depends - are you wondering about implicit pressure or explicit pressure?

Implicitly - 100%. As the coaches of France's top pair team and single skaters, the FFSG does have a very strong relationship with John and Silvia. Didier had already reviewed the evidence & knew of Cipres guilt when the FFSG released the December 15, 2019 statement stating "In light of the information at its disposal, the FFSG has no cause not to place its confidence in him." The only reason that he ended up confirming Cipres' guilt to the press a few months later was because he was trying to save his own skin. There is also evidence that suggests that the FFSG (or at least Didier and his inner circle) were actively protecting Cipres in other ways.

However, according to the evidence I've reviewed, John and Silvia's immediate reaction upon Vinny showing them of the video/photos was to launch the intimidation campaign. There were many comments (both alleged and confirmed via text messages) made by people who attempted to cover this up citing the Olympics and J/C high likelihood of future international success as reasons to make things go away. Some of the threats that were made towards the girl stated that she would be attacked by French fans and would have to fight against the entire FFSG.

As far as the rink goes, assuming that Cipres wasn't insured, the rink management also had a vested interest in covering up the incident since they would be liable for any damages.

TL;DR I do think that John & Silvia faced implicit pressure from the FFSG. However, I also think that their primary motivation was ensuring that their top team could continue competing. Had everything been properly reported and investigated in December 2017, J/C wouldn't have competed at a second Olympics, wouldn't have a World Bronze Medal and wouldn't have become GPF and European champions. The FFSG and rink management also contributed to the cover-up and were motivated by their own self-interest.
 

Yuri

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It depends - are you wondering about implicit pressure or explicit pressure?

Implicitly - 100%. As the coaches of France's top pair team and single skaters, the FFSG does have a very strong relationship with John and Silvia. Didier had already reviewed the evidence & knew of Cipres guilt when the FFSG released the December 15, 2019 statement stating "In light of the information at its disposal, the FFSG has no cause not to place its confidence in him." The only reason that he ended up confirming Cipres' guilt to the press a few months later was because he was trying to save his own skin. There is also evidence that suggests that the FFSG (or at least Didier and his inner circle) were actively protecting Cipres in other ways.
Thanks, I was asking about explicit pressure. As you stated, implicit was 100%. Starting with my time at UDel when Linichuk & Karponosov relocated their camp from Moscow to America, I have witnessed first hand the interest of foreign figure skating federations when their top medal contenders train outside their home country in the USA.

It was enlightening at one late night session when then-Russian figure skating President Valentin Piseev and his wife Alla Shekhovtsova visited UDel and made all of their dancers do test skates of their original and free dances. No video tapes, too early for Internet, it was a personal visit to check on the likes of Grishuk/Platov and Krylova/Ovsyannikov, with lots of discussions rinkside with Natalia and Gennady, who appeared a bit intimidated at times even though they themselves were former Olympic Gold Medalists. And that's just what I was able to witness. Especially during periods when injuries were side-lining G&P and there was no opportunity to witness them in Europe in international competitions.

Afterwards, some of my elite skating friends have themselves coached elite skaters from European nations. My take was that U.S.-based coaches, even those who grew up and trained in Europe or Russia, tended to feel like they were on probation when handling top-10 skaters, particularly medal contenders, in the USA. So there's also the loyalty to the foreign figure skating federation, who can be the ultimate employer if the coaches have a solid relationship so that they can count on a stream of future students from that country. U.S. Figure Skating in some cases may only be a secondary worry.

I am not going to speak out of school a quarter century later, but clearly there was both physical and emotional abuse in some of these camps that hosted elite foreign skaters that would make the Cipres allegations truly look like child-play, pun intended. At a level beyond how I saw ever saw or heard of being American skaters treated by American-born coaches, with the exception of the behind-the-scenes sexual abuse already discussed here. I wonder if the Russians, e.g., have tended to pull their coaches and top skaters back home to Moscow and St. Petersburg to avoid these situations where USFS and SafeSport are around to investigate.

To bring us back on topic, that's why I questioned the involvement of the FFSG and Gailhaguet in the Zimmerman suspension.
 

meggonzo

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I don’t expect any different kinds of reactions from very minimal details coming out regarding this specific situation, but did anyone think that there are further details we don’t know, that make the suspension and probations more explainable?

I’m not going to get anywhere with people that are already mind-reading and assuming that they know everything, but there really are more layers and complications to this situation than what has been presented.
So do you think the suspension and probations are too harsh or not harsh enough? What needs to be explained? Morgan sent a dick pic to a 13 year old's account and John and Silvia intimidated the girl to not report to authorities so Morgan could go to the Olympics. What else do we really need to know?
 

tony

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So do you think the suspension and probations are too harsh or not harsh enough? What needs to be explained? Morgan sent a dick pic to a 13 year old's account and John and Silvia intimidated the girl to not report to authorities so Morgan could go to the Olympics. What else do we really need to know?
I’ve let it be known that I know a little bit more concerning the case than what is being published, and it’s not my place to divulge that info. However, since I do know it, I can say that some people who think they have everything figured out and/or exactly what happened are way off-base and repeating things that were never specified anywhere. I think a probation for Fontana is fine.
 

meggonzo

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I’ve let it be known that I know a little bit more concerning the case than what is being published, and it’s not my place to divulge that info. However, since I do know it, I can say that some people who think they have everything figured out and/or exactly what happened are way off-base and repeating things that were never specified anywhere. I think a probation for Fontana is fine.
I'm having a hard time imagining a scenario where it would be okay for an adult to send a dick pic to a 13 year old. It was confirmed that the picture was sent from Morgan's IG account to the victim's account, right?
 

tony

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I don't get what point you are trying to argue. 🤷‍♀️
Well, maybe some day the explanations for the sentences will be given. Maybe not. But until then, I’m sure posters will speak like they know every last detail and state it as fact.

I’m not excusing or never have excused what Morgan did. It’s gross and it’s beyond stupid. If we want to carry on that he should be in much more trouble and should have been reprimanded by the French Association— absolutely.
 

okokok777

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I’ve never once argued that point - check it. Morgan is an idiot.

Eh - I would personally call him a lot worse than an idiot but I'm not sure what pieces of evidences you've seen versus myself.

I’ve let it be known that I know a little bit more concerning the case than what is being published, and it’s not my place to divulge that info. However, since I do know it, I can say that some people who think they have everything figured out and/or exactly what happened are way off-base and repeating things that were never specified anywhere. I think a probation for Fontana is fine.

In re: to Silvia, I personally think her sanction was too lenient - especially considering everything that she was being investigated for (both related to this incident and other alleged incidents). However, it may have been due to lack of evidence which, if so, I would actually understand. Especially since the case against Zimmerman was admittedly stronger.
 

tony

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Eh - I would personally call him a lot worse than an idiot but I'm not sure what pieces of evidences you've seen versus myself.
Of course he’s worse than an idiot- he’s gross. But this situation is not as A to Z outside of his action as people think it is or are basing their attitudes on. You know that you and I have been privy to some of the same information that makes it obvious there are many more questions that have never been addressed, parties that should have been questioned much more than they were, situations that may have happened prior to this, etc.
 

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