Youth soccer club settles sex assault claim

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A youth soccer club in Olympia settled a $1.5 million lawsuit against a former member who says she was sexually abused by a coach.

According to Brittany Wentz, the alleged abuse occurred during the five years she was a member of Black Hills Football Club in Thurston County. She was 13 years old when she said her coach, David Cross, tried to "groom" her.

"We all respected Dave and loved being around each other," Wentz said. "I thought I was getting close to one of my idols at the time."

By the time she was 17, the relationship became sexual even though Cross was still coaching, according to Wentz.

"In my mind it was an affair and if I told anybody, I would get in trouble and I'd go to jail," she said.

Cross has never faced criminal charges as a result of the accusations. The abuse allegedly occurred from 2005 to 2010. By the time Wentz came forward in 2015, Thurston County prosecutors say the three-year statute of limitations on criminal charges for this type of crime had passed.

"I wish I had said something then," Wentz said. "This has brought such a darkness into my life."

While criminal charges won't be filed, a Thurston County judge said Cross will be liable for damages stemming from a civil lawsuit.

Black Hill Football Club was named in the lawsuit because attorneys believe it "knew or should have known that a soccer coach could or would exploit these youth soccer players." They say the club did not have policies in place to prevent coaches from engaging in social interactions with players or spending time with players alone.

Wentz said the settlement helps bring closure.

"Through this process, we discovered a lot of girls who were injured mentally, emotionally and physically," she said.

The 25 year old now wants to encourage other boys and girls in similar situations to not be afraid of people in positions of power.

"They're thought of as mentors and idols to some kids," Wentz said. "They can easily sway little kids' minds."

Black Hill Football Club officials said Cross was let go from his position as a coach, which he held for at least a decade.

Black Hill Football Club is Thurston County's only club that competes in Washington state's Youth Soccer Regional Club League.