In the two years since former gymnast-turned-Kentucky lawyer Rachael Denhollander broke her silence by providing documents and other materials to corroborate the abuse she suffered at the hands of serial child molester Lawrence Nassar, organizations around the country have incurred millions in legal bills coping with the sprawling scandal.
Earlier this month, a former Olympic gymnast now working as a lawyer in Las Vegas came forward with claims of sexual abuse by Nassar, who served as a longtime trainer with the U.S. national gymnastics team. Tasha Schwikert-Warren, 33, told ABC News that Nassar abused her more than 100 times between 2000 and 2005.
Schwikert-Warren, who belatedly received a bronze medal for competing on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, spoke with ABC along with her sister, 31-year-old former U.S. gymnast Jordan Cobbs. While Cobbs now coaches young gymnasts, Schwikert-Warren is an associate at Holland & Hart in Las Vegas.
On Oct. 29, Schwikert-Warren and Cobbs filed a pair of fraud and racketeering complaints against USA Gymnastics in Los Angeles Superior Court. In a press conference that same day, both women said they were motivated to tell their stories as a result of the recent arrest in Tennessee of former USA Gymnastics president Stephen Penny Jr. A Texas grand jury has indicted Penny on charges of evidence tampering in an investigation into Nassar.
Schwikert-Warren, who also uses the last name Moser as a result of her marriage to former University of Nevada-Las Vegas basketball star Michael Moser, graduated from UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law in 2015. During law school, she worked in athlete management at the Wasserman Media Group. Schwikert-Warren then clerked for Nevada’s Eighth Judicial District Court in Las Vegas before taking a job at Wood, Smith, Henning & Berman in the city, where she spent almost a year until she returned to her clerkship in September 2017, according to her LinkedIn profile.
In May, Schwikert-Warren joined Holland & Hart as an associate in the firm’s real estate and construction group in Las Vegas. She did not return a request for comment.
While the suits filed by Schwikert-Warren and Cobbs against USA Gymnastics do not name Nassar specifically, they do refer to an individual identified as “Doe 1” who was given a 120-year prison sentence for sex abuse. The two women state in their complaint that USA Gymnastics, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit that serves as the U.S. governing body for the sport, failed to maintain a “culture of accountability and transparency” that would have prevented Nassar from abusing his victims under the guise of providing medical treatment.
“I am outraged at watching what’s been happening at USA Gymnastics,” Schwikert-Warren told reporters this week at a press conference in Los Angeles. “It’s like watching a perpetual circus of horribles.”
USA Gymnastics, which employed Nassar for decades, hired former federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels last year to conduct a review of its operations. Daniels, a former managing partner of Indianapolis-based Krieg DeVault who specializes in internal investigations, subsequently issued a report that outlined a list of recommended changes to the policies, procedures and bylaws for USA Gymnastics. The organization’s entire board of directors, including chairman and California lawyer Paul Parilla, resigned in January after Nassar received up to 175 years in prison on seven sexual assault charges.
Santa Monica, California-based Panish Shea & Boyle, Houston-based Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz and Waco, Texas-based Hunt & Tuegel are representing Schwikert-Warren and Cobbs in their suit against USA Gymnastics.
Mark Busby, a former sex crimes prosecutor hired as an in-house attorney last year by USA Gymnastics as part of the organization’s effort to enact reforms in the wake of the Nassar scandal, declined to discuss whether the nonprofit has retained outside counsel for the suit filed by Schwikert-Warren and Cobbs. A spokeswoman for USA Gymnastics did not return a request for comment on the matter.
Court filings in other cases filed against USA Gymnastics—such as a suit filed by former star gymnast McKayla Maroney in federal court in Los Angeles—show that Clyde & Co has been retained to represent the organization. The Clyde & Co litigators appearing in court for USA Gymnastics joined the British firm a year ago when it absorbed the bulk of now-defunct Sedgwick.
Media representatives for Clyde & Co did not immediately return a request for comment as to whether the firm is defending USA Gymnastics against the suit filed by Schwikert-Warren and Cobbs, both of whom also included as a defendant the U.S. Olympic Committee. The latter has turned to Covington & Burling to represent it in similar matters, such as the suit filed by Maroney.
Faegre Baker Daniels is one firm that has served as a longtime legal adviser to USA Gymnastics. The Indianapolis Star reported earlier this year that John “Jack” Swarbrick, a former partner at predecessor firm Baker & Daniels who has spent the past decade as athletic director for the University of Notre Dame, advised USA Gymnastics between 1984 and 2008 in crafting its policies related to sexual assault. (Baker & Daniels merged in 2012 with Faegre & Benson.)
Federal tax filings show that Faegre received $191,547 from USA Gymnastics in 2015, $122,619 in 2014 and $138,143 in 2013. But the firm is not representing USA Gymnastics in the suits filed against it this week by Schwikert-Warren and Cobbs. A Faegre spokeswoman told The American Lawyer on Wednesday that the firm is not working on the matter.
Earlier this month, Faegre alum Mary Bono abruptly resigned as interim president and CEO of USA Gymnastics after several former gymnasts criticized the former California congresswoman over a photo she posted crossing out the Nike logo on a pair of sneakers as a result of the company’s controversial advertising campaign featuring former National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Faegre said through a spokeswoman that Bono was never a partner at the firm, but a nonlawyer principal in its consulting division in Washington, D.C., which she joined in 2013.
“[Bono] resigned her position with Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting in order to assume the new position with USA Gymnastics,” the firm said. “Her return to the firm is not under discussion at this time.”
Bono, the widow of former entertainer-turned-congressman Sonny Bono, issued a statement expressing regret at having created an uncomfortable situation for USA Gymnastics, but also defended her right to have an opinion about Kaepernick. Bono, who did not respond to an email sent to her at USA Gymnastics, appears to be preparing for a new career. Her LinkedIn profile states that she is semi-retired but “excited about my next chapter, whatever it will be.”
Federal tax filings by USA Gymnastics show that it paid Bono’s indirect predecessor Penny, a businessman and sports administrator who resigned his leadership role in 2017, a total of $670,729 in 2016, the most recent year for which records are available. Penny, who pleaded not guilty this week to evidence tampering charges, is being represented by Houston-based litigator Rusty Hardin and Los Angeles-based Robie & Matthai.
Kerry Perry, who had replaced Penny as leader of USA Gymnastics, resigned in September after only nine months on the job.