Updated: New Lawsuit Filed Against USEF, Flintridge And USA Equestrian Trust

May 6, 2021 - 12:24 PM

This story has been updated to include a response from the Flintridge Riding Club.

Warning: This article contains explicit content and descriptions of sexual abuse. 

A second woman has filed a lawsuit alleging she was sexually abused as a child by former elite trainer Jimmy Williams. The suit names Flintridge Riding Club, the U.S Equestrian Federation and USA Equestrian Trust as defendants; Williams died in 1993. Flintridge, located in La Cañada Flintridge, California, is the facility where Williams taught and is alleged to have abused multiple minors.

The case, filed May 4 by longtime eventing competitor Julie Boyer, comes nine months after a similar sexual battery suit was filed by another woman, Gigi Gaston, against the same defendants. Boyer’s suit seeks damages for sexual battery, sexual harassment, negligence and related claims.

Boyer alleges in her lawsuit that Williams sexually abused her over the course of several years while she was a teenaged student at Flintridge and that the organizations named in the suit were negligent for exposing her and other children to Williams and providing him housing on the riding club’s grounds.

“Flintridge, USEF and USA Equestrian Trust all had a duty to protect children. They did not protect children. They in fact exposed children to an abuser so they breached the duty,” said Boyer’s attorney, Mike Reck of Jeff Anderson & Associates.

The lawsuit is being filed under the California Child Victims Act, which extends the statute of limitations for survivors of sexual abuse.

Boyer’s decision to sue grew from learning about Gaston’s case in the Chronicle.

“It started with wanting to be Gigi’s witness,” she said, explaining that she reached out to Reck for that purpose. 

“I think she [brings the lawsuit] for the same reason we all would do this,” Reck said. “From an early age, you know what’s right and wrong, and what Jimmy Williams was allowed to do was wrong. You can’t fix something if you don’t first, at minimum, have acknowledgement and accountability. By bringing this lawsuit she is able to say this happened, it was wrong, and it was not my fault. Those are the three truest statements than anyone can make.”

In her youth Boyer thought she was the only person Williams had molested.

“[As an adult] I had come across some people prior to Gigi coming forward,” she said. “When my past riding experiences came up, and I said, ‘I was at Flintridge for a while,’ people would say, ‘Oh yeah, with Jimmy the child molester.’ Apparently, it was known at the time. These were big-name trainers that would say this.”

Boyer rode at Flintridge from late 1974 through 1976, and she said Williams began to abuse her shortly after she arrived, at age 15, and continued until she left two years later.

It started with touching and kissing, she said—“It was shocking to me because I had never kissed anyone except my mother. He would open his mouth and stick his tongue down your throat”—and evolved into him inviting Boyer into his cottage and forcing her to perform oral sex on him.

“He pretty much threatened that I could not stay there, that somehow or other I’d get kicked out, if I didn’t do this thing that he had to teach me how to do,” she said.

During a three-week show in Del Mar, California, Williams showed up at Boyer’s hotel room during the night and insisted she let him in, then proceeded to rape her, she said. Another time, when she was 16, she said, he picked her up under the guise of going to look at horses and took her to a motel where he molested her.

Boyer, Agua Dulce, California, said she didn’t talk about what happened to her mother, a single parent who made tremendous sacrifices for her daughter to ride.

“I loved my mother, and I never told my mother ever,” Boyer said. “Because here she is, paying all this money, working overtime to afford me to be there. Then to tell her that her kind, generous gesture put her child into a situation where they were being molested? She would be completely devastated, so I never said one word, ever.”

According to the lawsuit, Boyer “has suffered mentally and emotionally as a child and will continue to suffer severe emotional distress including, but not limited to severe anxiety, feelings of self-blame, feelings of estrangement from friends and/or family, hypervigilance, a lost sense of worth, a sense of being tainted and/or shamed, lack of trust, intimacy and relationship issues, and other economic damages.”

Gaston’s lawsuit against Flintridge Riding Club, USEF and USA Equestrian were filed Aug. 5, 2020, the same day as two other high profile lawsuits seeking damages for sexual assault of a minor and negligence were filed against former U.S. Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe George Morris. Those suits were filed on behalf of Jonathan Soresi and an anonymous second person who also named Topping Riding Club as a defendant.

Flintridge Riding Club President Suzanne Osimo sent the Chronicle the following statement.

“Over three years ago, Flintridge Riding Club severed all affiliation with Jimmy Williams following first-time reporting of credible allegations of sexual assault and misconduct by Williams, including allegations involving minors.  Related allegations have now been brought against Flintridge under California’s Child Victims Act, raising questions about what—if anything—the Club knew about Williams’ misconduct from the 1970s until his death in 1993.

“As the current President of Flintridge Riding Club, I speak on behalf of its membership today in disavowing the alleged culture of silence that may have allowed for additional victimization by Williams. We applaud the bravery of those who have come forward, and forcefully condemn the actions of Williams.

“Flintridge Riding Club is unequivocal in our support of the United States Equestrian Federation’s barring of Williams from its membership in 2018 and similarly timed retirement of its lifetime achievement award named for him. Flintridge in 2018 likewise removed all trophies and other recognition of Williams at our facility, including renaming the riding ring bearing his name.

“At Flintridge Riding Club, the safety and security of our riders— including their physical and emotional well-being—is paramount.  This is especially true for our young riders and children. All trainers, staff and board members at Flintridge are SafeSport trained, and we are committed to ensuring that each member of the Flintridge community is comfortable coming forward if they see or experience anything inappropriate. We fully embrace the U.S. Center for SafeSport, and share its commitment to prevent the emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse of amateur athletes—at our stables and throughout the sport.”

The USEF declined to comment. USA Equestrian Trust did not reply to an emailed request for comment.

If you have been affected by sexual assault and need confidential, anonymous support, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-HOPE or chat online at online.rainn.org. For more information on the U.S. Center for SafeSport and their policies and procedures, visit uscenterforsafesport.org.

 

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