Nine new plaintiffs joined the lawsuit against former Dons baseball coaches Nino Giarratano and Troy Nakamura that alleged an “intolerable sexualized environment” this summer. According to the amended complaint, these students experienced misconduct from 1999 to 2018, and eight of the 12 plaintiffs cited misconduct as their driving reason for leaving USF before the completion of their degree.
In light of these allegations, President Paul Fitzgerald, S.J. announced the firing of Giarratano after 22 years on the Hilltop. Nakamura was let go two months earlier following a human resource investigation into his behavior. Since the emergence of the allegations, the University has had access to all of the identities in accordance with state law.
Following the anonymity granted to the three John Does in the first complaint, the law firm representing the former USF athletes, FeaganScott, requested anonymity for the additional nine players in all public documentation. The request was contested by USF under the technicality of the allegations. Whether or not the lawsuit is filed as sexual assault, or referred to as sexual misconduct, determines the anonymity granted to the plaintiffs.
California legal precedent uses sexual misconduct as an “umbrella” term used to define problematic sexual behaviors, while sexual assault refers to criminal behaviors such as rape.
According to University spokesperson, Kellie Samson, “None of the plaintiffs in this case have alleged sexual assault,” she said. “Plaintiffs who bring civil lawsuits must use their real names, with a narrow exception for sexual assault victims.”
Lynn Ellenberger, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, noted that anonymity is commonly used when there are sensitive topics involved in litigation. “When there are allegations involving sexual conduct and inappropriate sexual activities, it’s very common that plaintiffs proceed with Jane Doe and John Doe anonymity names.”
Ellenberger said that USF would only agree to the new plaintiffs’ requests for public anonymity if FeaganScott “stop any sort of media comment, or conduct, or social media postings, and any kind of public speaking” surrounding the case.
The law firm refused those conditions and insisted on the importance of media representation of sexual abuse cases. “Our ability to talk about the case, to bring recognition to the case, is very important, not only for the victims, our clients in this case, but also for other survivors of sexual abuse and other type of misconduct cases like this,” Ellenberger said.
“USF argued that it is unfair to allow plaintiffs to be anonymous while their lawyers have been actively seeking media coverage about the case,” Samson stated.
On Aug. 30, the judge on the case granted the motion to have all plaintiffs remain anonymous to the public. In response to this decision, Samson stated that “the judge has to date allowed the plaintiffs to remain anonymous, but said she may revisit the issue.”
FeaganScott is negotiating with the University’s council to create a protective order for the former players and to ensure rights are guaranteed for all parties throughout the entirety of the case.
“It’s not like we said to the defendants, ‘No, you can’t have their names at all.’ We said, ‘Yeah, of course, you can have their names, but you have to abide by these protections,” Ellenberger said.
“Some of these individuals are still college students. They want to protect the secrecy of their identities. Some of them are professionals working in high profile careers, and even some of them are professional baseball players. These allegations are very personal,” Ellenberger said.
The suit also claimed that not only was the environment sexualized, but that all players accused the coaches of some kind of “extreme psychological abuse” and “retaliation.”
In a March article, the Foghorn reported one incident from the suit in which Nakamura “crawled onto the field naked, swinging his penis in plain view,” as part of a skit.
“[Anonymity] is the only thing we asked for here, and we got a big push back from USF. We were frankly a little disturbed that they wanted to gag our ability to speak to the media about this case,” Ellenberger said.
Dillon McNeil, a USF alum who played on the baseball team from 2018 to 2021, agreed. “I don’t understand why the school is pressing so hard to have these names released. I don’t understand what significance that has, other than making the plaintiffs targets,” he said. “Anybody who played in that program knows that there was stuff going on that was not right. There was harm done by the coaches. There were rules and laws broken consistently in a pattern. That stuff existed. Period. And you can’t get away with that.”
According to Samson, USF (and the other defendants, including coaches and the NCAA) found “legal flaws” in the plaintiffs’ pleading and filed a motion to dismiss on Sept. 12. The court is set to rule on these motions to dismiss in December 2022 or January 2023. The Foghorn will continue its coverage of these legal proceedings as more information emerges.
Megan Robertson is the Foghorn’s news editor and a third-year media studies and performing arts and social justice double major. She covers breaking campus news and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.