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Texas Gym Faces Lawsuit for Negligence After Sexual Assault

By Michael Klazema on 11/6/2016

A family in Texas is pursuing a lawsuit against a Georgetown-based gymnastics gym, alleging that the business was negligent in a sexual assault case from years prior. Per a report from KHOU.com, a Houston news station, the assault occurred in 2010 against a three-year-old female victim. The victim is not named in the suit—she is referred to only as "Jane Doe"—but the perpetrator of the assault is named. The perpetrator, Ryan Bradley Pitts, is already behind bars, serving a 60-year prison sentence for a child pornography conviction.

In 2010, Pitts was coaching children's gymnastics at the AcroTex Gym in Georgetown, Texas. The parents of the Jane Doe in the lawsuit allege that he carried their daughter into a room alone, closed the door, and proceeded to "perpetrate the sexual assault on the three-year-old girl." The nature of the assault was not specified in the KHOU article, but the lawsuit alleges that Pitts videotaped the incident.

Videotapes and photos of such assaults are what led to the prison sentence that Pitts is currently serving. The FBI caught him sharing child pornography on file-sharing websites in 2013. They later found nearly 23,000 "images and video of child pornography" on Pitts' computer and devices. The video proved that Pitts had assaulted six children between 2008 and 2012, filming or photographing each assault. The victims, including the Jane Doe in the currently pending lawsuit, ranged in age from three to 10 years old.

Pitts pleaded guilty to all six counts of child pornography production last August, earning 10 years of prison time for each conviction. The parents of the Jane Doe in this lawsuit say that they didn't find out about their daughter's assault until years after the fact.

The lawsuit alleges that AcroTex Gym was negligent not just in hiring Pitts, but also in failing to realize what he was doing while on the job. AcroTex never ran a background check on Pitts before hiring him. They also did not train other employees to spot signs of abuse or other suspicious behavior. With better safeguards in place, the plaintiffs argue, the gym could have prevented these assaults or caught them earlier.

AcroTex says that it does run background checks on prospective employees now. If the gym had run a background check on Pitts, it likely wouldn't have raised any red flags: Pitts had no criminal record before being convicted last summer.

The gym is not legally required to run background checks. Texas doesn't have licensing requirements for youth sports organizations or instructors, which means that AcroTex had no outright legal responsibility to screen its employees. Childcare facilities in Texas have to vet their employees, but since AcroTex focuses solely on athletics and not on overall care, it doesn't qualify as a childcare facility.

Sources: www.khou.com/news/local/texas/family-sues-georgetown-gym-after-sexual-assault/343032084


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