Friday, July 27, 2012

DA: Disgruntled ex-LC coach made false sex abuse claims

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman on Tuesday announced the arrest of Tim Udinski, the former head lacrosse coach at Lansdale Catholic High School, for stalking and harassment.

The defendant lodged false accusations of sexual misconduct against officials associated with the school, according to authorities. On seven separate occasions between Oct. 19, 2011 and May 31, 2012, Udinski allegedly sent false claims of sexual abuse in anonymous emails to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. In these emails, he claimed the current Lansdale Catholic football and lacrosse coaches were engaged in sexual solicitation of players on their respective teams. Udinski also accused the Lansdale Catholic principal of failing to take any action regarding the alleged misconduct, according to reports.

During his tenure at the school, Udinski reportedly was the target of unfounded accusations.

During the 2011 lacrosse season, Lansdale Catholic relieved Udinski of his duties after he reportedly engaged in repeated heated arguments with players and staff. Principal Tim Quinn reported Udinski was extremely upset about his firing.

After Udinski’s firing, on Oct. 19, 2011, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia received an anonymous email alleging that the head football coach had sexually solicited a player. The email included an accusation that the principal, himself a former football player at Lansdale Catholic, had a history of ignoring any complaints about the coach.

On March 12, and March 14, 2012 the Archdiocese received two anonymous emails stating Lansdale Catholic’s head lacrosse coach had been involved in a sexual assault while attending Lehigh University.

Again on March 15, 2012 the Archdiocese received an anonymous email threatening to inform the media about the allegations involving the lacrosse coach. This email was followed by numerous anonymous emails on March 22, to the Archdiocese and local media outlets concerning wrongdoing at Lansdale Catholic High School.

On May 9, 2012, the Archdiocese received an anonymous email stating that the coach sexually assaulted a lacrosse player at Lansdale Catholic. He was also accused of inviting the player to the shore and offering him beer. The complaint included another accusation that the principal was ignoring the complaints.

On May 31, 2012, another anonymous communication was sent to the Archdiocese again referencing the lacrosse coach attempting to lure his players to the shore to engage in sexual activity. Quinn was accused of covering up. The email demanded the principal’s resignation and jail time for the coach.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia released a statement Tuesday, noting, “Lansdale Catholic High School and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia take all allegations of abuse seriously. Each of these allegations, as is our practice, was immediately reported to law enforcement.”

The Montgomery County Detective Bureau undertook an investigation of these accusations. Twelve county detectives and staff members were tasked with investigating these repeated, anonymous reports of sexual abuse against two high school coaches. Detectives devoted in excess of 184 hours to investigating the accusations against the coaches. During the inquiry, law enforcement officers interviewed 97 people and executed 10 court orders and search warrants.

At the conclusion of an exhaustive and comprehensive investigation, detectives and prosecutors concluded that the allegations against both coaches were false and unfounded. The estimated cost to Montgomery County taxpayers to investigate these multiple false reports was more than $8,250.

“We wasted thousands of dollars — we used close to 200 man hours, we interviewed 97 individuals, and in the end, all to disprove these false accusations,” Ferman said. “The cost to taxpayers is enormous, but it pales in comparison to the cost to the individuals who have been falsely accused. I can’t begin to imagine what their lives have been like — to be the subject of these false accusations. It also does a tremendous amount of damage to real victims of sexual abuse — the notion that they made be disbelieved because someone has made a false accusation.”

Through the investigation Montgomery County Detectives developed Tim Udinski as the subject who allegedly sent the anonymous communications to the Archdiocese. On June 21, 2012, Detectives went to Udinski’s residence to interview him about this case. Udinski allegedly admitted to sending the seven anonymous emails to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Udinski reportedly stated that all the complaints were untrue. He allegedly admitted he specifically targeted the Lansdale Catholic football coach and lacrosse coach. Udinski reportedly told detectives that he made these false reports because, “I was mad at the school for the way I was treated. I was just furious.”

Lansdale Catholic administrators expressed relief and gratitude at the news.

“We’re extremely happy for the diligence of the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office and their detectives,” said James Casey, Lansdale Catholic High School president. “Along with the Archdioceses Office of Delegate of Investigations, they worked extremely well together and guided us in these challenging times.”

Quinn added, “There’s a sense of relief that obviously we can start moving forward on something. We’ve been dealing with it for a year. The Montgomery County detectives gave us a lot of support and help and man hours. Now we’re moving forward.”

Udinski was hired in the fall of 2010 and his contract was not renewed in 2011, said Casey. “He hasn’t been an employee since that time.”

“He was very highly recommended,” Quinn said. “He had done a lot of work. He had a good interview and his background checks were clear.” Quinn said he had no idea that Udinski might pose a problem, calling it “a surprise.”

The defendant was video arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Harold Borak today and bail was set at $25,000.00 unsecured. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 27 at 10:30 a.m.

The case will be prosecuted by the Captain of the Major Crimes Team, Assistant District Attorney Jesse S. King.

Journal Register reporters Linda Stein and Jenny DeHuff contributed to this article