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Boise State assistant coach placed on leave, faces sex-abuse lawsuit tied to previous job

Posted: 10:03 AM, Jan 08, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-08 12:29:11-05

BOISE, Idaho — Boise State women’s basketball assistant coach Cody Butler faces a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse and harassment of a player at his previous job, the Idaho Statesman reports.

Butler, who has worked at Boise State since 2012, was sued in May by a former women’s basketball player at Yakima Valley College . He was a men’s and women’s assistant coach at Yakima Valley from 2000 to 2002, the co-head coach of the women’s team in 2002-03 and the head women’s coach from 2003 to 2012.

The specific allegations in the lawsuit date as far back as 2000 and come from a woman who was on the Yakima Valley women’s basketball team from 2001 to 2003. The Idaho Statesman generally doesn't name plaintiffs in sexual-abuse cases.

Boise State placed Butler on administrative leave Tuesday after the Idaho Statesman inquired about the university’s knowledge of the lawsuit.

"Upon discovery of a lawsuit against assistant coach Cody Butler, Boise State placed him on administrative leave pending university review of the matter,” the Boise State athletic department said in a statement provided to the Statesman

The lawsuit, which was filed May 22 in Olympia, Washington, names Butler, Yakima Valley College and the state of Washington as defendants.

The accusations include that Butler made persistent comments about the plaintiff’s body — including her “behind” — and that he made inappropriate physical contact with her during one-on-one coaching sessions and office meetings. The comments and touching began at the Jam On It youth basketball program in Sparks, Nevada, when the plaintiff was a 17-year-old high school student, according to her declaration filed with the court.

The defendants denied all allegations in their answer to the complaint, which was filed by the Washington state attorney general’s office. The attorney general’s office confirmed to the Statesman that it is representing Butler in the case. A request for comment from Butler or his representative wasn’t immediately answered.

A motion to dismiss the case was denied in October, and a trial date is set for 2021.

The plaintiff played one more year of basketball at an NAIA school after Yakima Valley before drug and alcohol addiction derailed her life, she said in an interview Tuesday with the Idaho Statesman. She eventually became homeless in Arizona and spent about three years in prison on charges related to drug abuse, she said.

“I soon went from being the captain of my basketball team to becoming an alcoholic and a heroin addict,” her court declaration states.

Since her release from prison in 2012, she has received a master’s degree, gotten married and had three children, she said. She has been sober for nearly nine years, she said, and is the director of a detox center for substance-abuse addiction in Arizona.

In late 2018, she saw a Facebook video of another woman, Ashlee Orndorff, telling of her experience as a young basketball player with Butler and Matt Williams, who was a founder of Jam On It. Orndorff told a story of spending time as a teenager in a hot tub with Butler at Williams’ home.

“It was at this time in 2018 that I started thinking about it with a clearer head space because I was no longer in a cycle of sex, drugs, eating disorders and alcohol abuse,” the plaintiff said in her declaration. “I began to see … what happened to me in the early 2000s in a new light, and I began the painstaking process of learning how it affected me emotionally and derailed other aspects of my life.”

The plaintiff and Orndorff overlapped at Jam On It but never were teammates, the plaintiff said. A former teammate alerted her to Orndorff’s video.

“My entire world stopped because I realized I was not alone,” the plaintiff said in the interview. “I didn’t make anything up. This really happened, and I’m not exaggerating. He did this. And that’s when I … at least started to realize that what happened to me was wrong.”

The plaintiff said she never reported Butler’s actions during her time in college because she didn’t understand what was happening. They spent a couple days together in 2004 in Reno, she said, but since then the only contact was a brief conversation when she was released from prison in 2012.

“I was really naive,” she said. “I thought that’s what college was. … I thought all coaches did what he did because that’s all I knew.”

Kevin Hastings, who is one of the plaintiff’s attorneys at Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala in Washington, said the plaintiff’s delayed recognition of what happened to her is common in sexual-abuse victims. His law firm has specialized in such cases, he said.

“It’s always alarming to us when we have people in positions of power using their positions to take advantage of those who are not in positions of power,” he said. “Here it’s a student, it’s a teenage student, and you have someone who’s a coach and who’s the gatekeeper to her success. … It is an egregious breach of trust.”

Looking back, the plaintiff said what bothers her most is that nobody intervened. She said an athletic administrator witnessed Butler giving her a massage in his office after dark, and that it was clear within the program she was receiving “special attention” from Butler.

“You can read the (lawsuit) declarations and you can read everything that’s there and you can see how just completely inappropriate the relationship was,” she said. “I don’t know why no one said anything. I don’t know why it was allowed … and it was acted like it was OK.”

Sara Gentzler of The Olympian in Olympia, Washington, contributed to this report.

To read Chadd Cripe 's FULL report, check out the Idaho Statesman.