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AAU gave police identities of 3 child sex-abuse accusers, spokesman says

From George Howell, CNN
updated 10:50 AM EST, Mon December 12, 2011
Two men accuse Robert Dodd, former president and CEO of the Amateur Athletic Union, of molestation.
Two men accuse Robert Dodd, former president and CEO of the Amateur Athletic Union, of molestation.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An ex-AAU CEO is accused of sexually abusing boys while he was a YMCA coach
  • The AAU got "cryptic" messages in November and did its own probe, a spokesman says
  • The group notified Memphis police last week, setting off its investigation, he adds
  • ESPN aired a report Sunday featuring two alleged accusers of Robert "Bobby" Dodd

(CNN) -- The Amateur Athletic Union kick-started a child sex abuse criminal probe against its former president when it gave Memphis, Tennessee, police the identities of three of his accusers, a spokesman for the group said Sunday.

Ron Sachs spoke with CNN hours after ESPN aired, on its show "Outside the Lines," interviews with two men who accused Robert "Bobby" Dodd of abusing them in the 1980s, when he was their coach at a YMCA program in the southwest Tennessee city.

According to Sachs, the Memphis police had "no reports from anybody" about Dodd until the Amateur Athletic Union -- also known as the AAU -- gave them the results of their own, nearly month-long investigation last Thursday. The group previously claimed that it alerted authorities last Friday.

This included revealing the identity of a "potential third complaining victim" who was not brought up in the ESPN report, the spokesman said.

"Only the AAU's contact with the Memphis police triggered what we believe is now a legitimate law enforcement investigation," said Sachs.

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In the ESPN report, Dodd's accusers claim he sexually abused them in hotel rooms during tournaments when they were 12 to 16 years old.

CNN could not reach Dodd, 63, who was dismissed from the AAU on November 14, for comment. ESPN said it also had been unable to reach him.

Dodd is distinct from the legendary, late former Georgia Tech football coach who had the same name.

Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong has said that his department is probing the claims.

"Although this case has its challenges due to the amount of time that has passed, it will be thoroughly examined," Armstrong said. "And if the investigation reveals the law was violated, the person responsible will be held accountable."

The allegations were made amid child sex scandals at Penn State and Syracuse universities and The Citadel; both men accusing Dodd told ESPN that the publicity from the scandals prompted them to act.

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Detailing its involvement, Sachs said the AAU stands by its response -- including its decision to oust Dodd, hire an investigator and then contact authorities.

"These (AAU) folks dealt with these allegations -- as brief as they were, as anonymous as they were, as salacious as they were, but lacking any specificity," Sachs said.

The AAU got "cryptic, brief" e-mails -- signed only as "shrimp breath" -- on November 7, 8 and 9 -- that "alleged, in a very general way, that Bobby Dodd engaged in child sexual abuse," said the spokesman. And on November 9, the organization got two brief voice-mails along the same lines. There was no name or contact information left in either case.

Those messages were sent to the AAU's compliance and general counsel office, and AAU "officers" were notified on November 11. The board members, several of whom flew into Orlando, convened on the following Monday, November 14, "to confront then-President Bobby Dodd," said Sachs.

In that meeting, Dodd claimed he'd gotten similar phone messages and insisted he was innocent, according to the spokesman, who said he'd spoken with several AAU officers at that meeting.

"Despite those denials, the AAU officers directed that Bobby Dodd leave the premises and leave his position (as president and CEO) for an indefinite period," said Sachs.

Under its acting president, Louis Stout, the AAU hired a private investigator to look into the allegations. Those findings were turned over to police earlier this month.

One of Dodd's accusers, identified by ESPN as Ralph West of Miami, said he was 14 at the time of the alleged abuse. West said he was on a basketball team run by Dodd, who he said would sometimes slip into West's hotel room.

West said he was talking publicly, despite the potential embarrassment to him and his family, not to "gain anything" but because he felt "the guy shouldn't be around kids anymore."

West said Dodd abused him or tried to abuse him six times, including at least once in which he tried "to put his hand in my boxer shorts" while West was sleeping.

Asked how Dodd could have entered the hotel room on that and other occasions, West said, "He had a key. He always somehow had a key to whatever room I was in."

West said he tried to find ways to keep Dodd out of his hotel room when they were at out-of-town basketball tournaments, saying he was "afraid to even fall asleep."

"He would push his way in the room and then end up, I'd see, I wouldn't see him, I would hear him, he'd lay at the floor of the bed masturbating," the man said. "And you just lay there horrified. But you don't know what to do. What, are you going to blow the lid off of this at 14 years? All you want to do is pretend it didn't happen and not address it at all. You want to hide and bury it."

Another accuser, whom ESPN did not identify, said Dodd gave him alcohol before taking him to a bedroom and touching him inappropriately.

"The last thing that I can really remember was him carrying me into his bedroom and I can remember him, you know, touching me in ways that I, I didn't uh, I didn't want another man touching me," the man said.

That accuser said he called Dodd on November 11 and confronted him. Dodd, he said, then apologized for the alleged abuse. The network said it examined the man's phone records and verified an eight-minute phone call to Dodd's number.

Both men said they had never reported the alleged incidents to police and had only recently told their families, ESPN said.

Sachs criticized the half-hour ESPN report for not quoting Stout's video statement on the matter or others from the AAU. The organization, which has 80,000 adult volunteers involved in coaching and works with hundreds of thousands of young people, is asking outside experts to review its policies for protecting children, which Sachs called the AAU's "No. 1 priority."

The spokesman also clarified that Dodd told his successor, Stout, that he had colon cancer and needed surgery after his November 14 dismissal. Dodd allegedly asked that he be able to retire for medical purposes -- a request that Stout denied, according to Sachs.

"(Stout) told Mr. Dodd to go focus on your health, go through this surgery and we'll deal with this issue later," said Sachs.

Dodd has been back at the AAU's offices one time since his ouster, contrary to the organization's earlier reports that he'd never returned. The occasion was a "forensic audit" that the spokesman called "standard" for outgoing leaders of organizations.

"Bobby Dodd is no longer part of the AAU," said Sachs. "He has no continuing role (or) involvement in their programs. There's no contact with him. Whatever compensation he would have been entitled to -- accrued vacation time -- will be paid, and that's it."

CNN's Joe Sutton, Meridith Edwards and Tom Watkins contributed to this report.

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