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TkdPlus Special Investigative Report

TkdPlus Special Investigative Report

Judge Says Jean Lopez Not Guilty!

An unusual development has added more drama to the Lopez brothers alleged rape case.

In a new surprising twist in the saga of the two dethroned brothers of the US taekwondo, a federal magistrate judge recommended that the former USA Taekwondo national team coach Jean Lopez and the U.S.Center for SafeSport be dropped as defendants in the Colorado lawsuit filed by five female USA Taekwondo competitors who alleged they were sexually abused and exploited while training and competing on behalf of Team USA.

The lawsuit describes several alleged instances of sexual abuse and rape committed by Jean and Steven Lopez and other unnamed taekwondo athletes.

The decision and the consequent recommendation made by Magistrate Judge Michael Hegarty to drop Jean Lopez as a defendant brings up many questions but on a more optimistic note for the plaintiff's case the judge recommended that certain elements of the case should be allowed to continue against two-time Olympic gold medalist Steven Lopez, Jean Lopez brother, the USOC and USA Taekwondo, who remain as defendants.

Steven Estey, a San Diego lawyer who represents some of the plaintiffs, said he and his clients are encouraged that the case will proceed on what he said are significant points of action. He added the plaintiffs may appeal some of Hegarty’s recommendations.

“We definitely have a direct path, and I’m super happy with that,” Estey said. “The negligence claim against the USOC is viable, and that means they can be sued in all cases. You can sue the USOC for what happens at the national governing body level. That’s the biggest thing we take away from it.

“We lost some of the causes of action, but the main ones are intact, and that gives us an opportunity to go forward and find out what happened.”

Contrary to the “SafeSport” arbitrator who had found insufficient evidence against Steven Lopez, and had lifted the hislifetime ban to reinstate him a few months earlier Judge Hegarty has recommended the lawsuit should continue on five counts against Steven Lopez, four counts against the USOC and three counts against USA Taekwondo.

In December of 2018 the arbitrator, Jeff Kaplan had said that “the Center (SafeSport) has failed to prove by the preponderance of the evidence that Lopez violated the SafeSport code by grooming NZ (Nina Zampetti), touching her vaginal area and breasts and receiving oral sex from her in 2000.”

Zampetti has alleged that when she was14, she was at the Lopez house when Steven Lopez asked her to take off her shirt and touched her breast. A short time later, he put his penis in her mouth and ejaculated.

More allegations against Steven Lopez were filed by Joslin, who says she was sexually assaulted by Lopez during a2006 tournament in Bonn, Germany; Means, who said she was drugged and,according to a witness, raped by Lopez in June 2008 and Melon who had been dating Steven on and off for several years and has claimed that in 2004 after having a physical altercation with Steven at his parents ‘home she went back to her apartment but Steven followed her, broke in through a window and raped her.

Hegarty recommended that the lawsuit should continue against the USOC and USA Taekwondo on allegations of forced labor, against USA Taekwondo on allegations of obstruction, attempted obstruction and interference with enforcement and against the USOC on allegations of negligence, gross negligence, and outrageous conduct.

The lawsuit says the USOC and USATaekwondo served as “travel agent and commercial funder for the Lopez brothers in the domestic and international sexual exploitation of young female athlete wearing Team USA on their uniforms.”

The lawsuit was filed last year as part of a two-pronged attempt by the former athletes to bring the Lopez brothers to bear for what they claim was a decades-long pattern of sexual exploitation and abuse of young female athletes.

In recommending that SafeSport be removed as a defendant, Hegarty said he agrees with SafeSport’s contention that it has absolute immunity from lawsuits, much as prosecutors have immunity from lawsuits involved with the performance of their duties.

The Lopez brothers have denied the allegations that they had assaulted or sexually assaulted the plaintiffs and sought dismissal of the lawsuit.