A group of 12 female water polo players who said their former coach sexually abused them has settled a lawsuit against USA Water Polo and a California water polo club, per Brian Melley of the Associated Press.
The lawsuit alleged that USA Water Polo and the International Water Polo Club failed to protect the players from Bahram Hojreh's alleged abuse while he was the coach of International Water Polo Club in Southern California. The women settled the suit for $13.85 million, which will be paid out by the organizations' insurer.
“We have heard the plaintiffs’ testimony, and their allegations are heartbreaking,” Christopher Ramsey, CEO of USA Water Polo, said in a statement. “We hope that this allows them to begin a new chapter in their lives."
Hojreh, who led the club from 2012 to 2017, has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of sexual abuse including "lewd acts on a child, sexual penetration with a foreign object and sexual battery by fraud."
Nine of the 10 victims in the criminal case were children at the time of the acts.
The California State Supreme court set precedent in April for governing bodies to take responsibility for athletes during a ruling involving taekwondo competitors.
USA Water Polo was allegedly aware of complaints against Hojreh dating back to 2017, according to Scott M. Reid of the Orange County Register. Players on International's girls team, ages 14 to 16, were accused of sexually assaulting opponents underwater, with at least five teams making similar claims during a single summer.
During a fracas at a match in 2017, the coach of an opposing team alleged, “Our girls are being sexually assaulted and [Hojreh] is teaching them how to do it."
Hojreh, 45, remained the team's coach until his arrest in April 2018. He also served as a coach at Kennedy High School in La Palma, California. In February 2019, he was banned from the sport for life by U.S. Center for SafeSport, per Melley.
"[Hojreh] continued to abuse young girls through the fall of 2017 and into the winter of 2018 despite [USA Water Polo] receiving a clear and unqualified notice that he was presenting a risk," Morgan A. Stewart, attorney for 11 alleged victims, said in 2020, per Reid.
USA Water Polo initially said it didn't receive any notice of the allegations until 2018.