Ohio State wants lawsuit that alleges sexual abuse by dive coach dismissed

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COLUMBUS – The Ohio State University is asking that a federal lawsuit filed against The Ohio State Dive Club be dismissed, claiming the university club is immune from litigation and that the venue where it was filed – U.S. District Court in Indianapolis – is improper, 10 Investigates has learned.

The response, filed by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, which represents OSU, comes weeks after the federal lawsuit was filed against the Ohio State Dive Club, USA Diving and Will Bohonyi – a former assistant club dive coach at Ohio State and Indiana University who is accused of coercing and sexually abusing his divers.

Bohonyi has not been charged but is being investigated by authorities.

“The Eleventh Amendment provides that a state may not be sued without its consent, and accordingly, bars Plaintiffs’ claims before this Court. Neither the State of Ohio, Ohio State, nor the Ohio State Diving Club has consented to be sued in federal Court,” the response states. “Plaintiffs’ claims against the Ohio State Diving Club arise from Defendant Will Bohonyi’s employment at Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, and none of the conduct underlying these claims occurred in Indiana; accordingly, venue also is not proper in Indiana.”

The lawsuit, filed by a former Ohio State club diver, Estee Pryor, and two other amateur divers who attended Indiana University, alleges that Bohonyi groomed the divers into sexual relationships, trading his continued coaching for sex while at least two of the divers were underage.

While 10 Investigates is not naming two of the other divers, Pryor has given her consent to be publicly identified.

The two other divers alleged that they were sexually coerced by Bohonyi while they dove for Indiana University. Bohonyi was also employed by dive clubs at IU and OSU that were both sanctioned by USA Diving – which is based in Indianapolis.

Both Pryor and her attorney have alleged in a federal lawsuit that Bohonyi sexually abused her in 2014 and that USA Diving and The Ohio State University turned a blind eye towards the alleged abuse and failed to thoroughly investigate. Bohonyi, they alleged, also continued to coach underage divers privately even though he was banned from coaching by USA Diving in 2015.

The university has said it moved quickly to investigate and terminate Bohonyi.

Bohonyi has declined to speak to 10 Investigates on two separate occasions – telling 10 Investigates outside his apartment “no comment.” Additional calls placed to numbers linked to him have not been returned. It is not clear if he has an attorney.

In a lengthy interview with 10 Investigates that aired August 3, Pryor said that her sexual relationship with Bohonyi began in July of 2014 when she was 16. After a teammate learned of her relationship with Bohonyi, she reported it to the Ohio State Dive Club head coach John Appleman. The university has said it investigated and fired Bohonyi in August of 2014.

That same year, Pryor said she reported the incidents to Ohio State University Police, which began to investigate. That investigation was closed at Pryor’s request.

During an interview with 10 Investigates, Pryor said she was harassed and felt pressured by the diving community and powerful people with connections to OSU to not pursue charges in 2014.

Pryor said: “If there is one thing I can tell you, it is … it is your everyday people that justify these actions. And everyday people plus institutions equals justification for perpetrators,” Pryor told 10 Investigates in a lengthy interview.

In response to an open records request, Ohio State provided a copy of that record to 10 Investigates where Pryor has said she asked that charges not be pursued in 2014. The copy sent to 10 Investigates is heavily redacted including any names or signatures.

10 Investigates also asked Pryor about why she chose to close the investigation in 2014. She says she felt outside pressure and was harassed, which is why she didn’t go forward with criminal charges at the time.

OSU Police reopened the case in 2018 at Pryor’s request and is working with the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, the university has said.

When asked if people might second-guess her for now pursuing charges four years later, Pryor told 10 Investigates:

“I would say when you have sexual games, when you involved a turkey baster, when you have his sexual needs met, through anal and vaginal sex, and when you have the community blaming you, and when you have someone telling you that you owe them this... because you cost him his job and his life and his career ... they don't know what it was like.

"These people with status, fame, wealth, money connections get away with it. And that bothers me. Because I was an everyday person and I got into a situation like this because someone like him had that much effect on the community. And had that much effect on an institution. And that institution did not protect me,” Pryor told 10 Investigates during a lengthy interview Thursday.

One of their sexual encounters, they allege, occurred in Maryland at a USA Diving sanctioned meet.

10 Investigates also has learned that despite Ohio State Police being given nude photos of Estee Pryor when she was a minor – the department failed to contact state or federal prosecutors in 2014.

Her attorney Robert Allard said: “If these people knew what they were doing if the people in HR had any education whatsoever about what did and did not constitute a crime -- it should have been very obvious immediately that crimes were committed in multitude.

“What's unique about this case, is that the coach took the minor across state lines to molest her in Maryland. That is a federal crime under the Mann Act. And that was information that was expressly conveyed to Ohio State when Estee reported the abuse,” her attorney Robert Allard told 10 Investigates. “They were either willfully incompetent or they covered up a crime. There is not a third option.”

A university spokesman has denied this assertion, stating that the university moved quickly to investigate and fire Bohonyi within weeks.

UPDATE: A university spokesman again re-iterated the university’s past statement that "Law enforcement has always been in possession of any images that may have existed."

10 Investigates has reviewed Bohonyi’s personnel file. His 2013 performance mentions that his “intentions are good” and that he is “growing and learning what is and what is not appropriate in conversations outside of the staff and how to communicate with parents when he may or not agree with how something has been handled by his colleagues.” The report also said he has a “good rapport with the divers and their parents.”

10 Investigates has also requested to talk with Ohio State University police investigators, but so far have been told they can't make public comments because of the lawsuit and the ongoing criminal investigation.

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