The victim of a former Lompoc-area coach with the American Youth Soccer Association has filed suit against the organization for allegedly leaving the coach in a position that allowed him to isolate and sexually molest boys, after the coach was arrested and admitted the abuse.
The suit, which was filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that national and Region 122 officials with AYSO, the largest youth soccer organization in the country, allowed Terence Paul Stevens to use his position as a coach to gain access to and “groom” young players for abuse. The suit names Stevens, AYSO and AYSO Region 122, which encompasses Santa Barbara, Goleta and Montecito, as defendants.
The plaintiff in the suit, who is now an adult living in Florida, was not named. The plaintiff is seeking a jury trial for "compensatory damages, injunctive relief, costs, interest, attorneys' fees and such other relief as the court deems appropriate and just."
Stevens, who coached in the Lompoc area in the mid- to late-1980s, was convicted of child sex abuse in Arizona in 2008 and is currently serving a prison sentence there. In a separate case, he also pleaded guilty last year to four counts of child molestation in Santa Barbara County — offenses that occurred while he was coaching in Lompoc — and was sentenced to 30 years in prison, a sentence that will begin after his release in Arizona.
“Stevens abused kids everywhere he went,” said Anthony DeMarco, an attorney representing the victim in the civil suit. “He's been convicted in two states and will spend the rest of his life in jail. But the people who knew about his abuse and did nothing — the people who knew Stevens was taking kids overnight to his empty home — need to be held accountable. Otherwise, how can we be sure that the cover-up at AYSO has ended?”
The lawsuit alleges that the victim was 11 years old when the abuse started in 1985. The victim is able to come forward now and sue because of the Service Members Civil Relief Act, which puts a hold on a victim’s statute of limitations while the victim is serving in the U.S. military.
Stevens took the boy on overnight trips and let him spend the night in his home, even though both activities were against AYSO rules, according to the lawsuit and criminal court documents. The complaint says the abuse continued for the next four years, including time in which the victim was a youth referee under AYSO and AYSO Region 122 supervision.
In 1988, Stevens was arrested for abusing the boy in this case. At the time of the arrest, Stevens admitted to some of the sexually abusive behavior, according to the suit.
When AYSO officials learned of the arrest, they didn’t warn parents or seek out other potential victims, the suit alleges, and Stevens was allowed to remain a volunteer and was not reprimanded or expelled by the organization. AYSO regional and national officials also never alerted parents to Stevens' subsequent convictions, according to the complaint.
Attempts to reach AYSO Region 122 officials for comment Thursday were unsuccessful.
Stevens went on to work and volunteer in the San Diego area before his arrest on charges of sexual misconduct with a minor in 2008 while visiting Yuma, Arizona.
The full complaint for the civil suit can be read at www.abusedinsocal.com.