Update 8/20/20: We’ve posted an article on our findings.
Last Wednesday YSC received an article from a reader about a player in New Jersey who had been suspended from rugby. We read the blog quickly, hardly believing it. Not because we didn’t believe Crystal Cooke’s story. But that a rugby player could be verbally and physically assaulted by a coach and very little was done about it?
First, Cooke was suspended for 20 days by her home team. Then she was charged with misconduct and provisionally suspended from participating in rugby by
the Empire Geographic Union (GU) Gary Heavner on behalf of USA Rugby*. All this while Ivano Mirandi, her coach was cleared of any charges? This had to be a mistake, right?
We immediately knew that we had to investigate this to understand the full story and advocate for Cooke where we could. We quickly began speaking with all the involved parties including Crystal Cooke, Angelina Tornetto (a fellow teammate), Union County, Empire GU, and USA Rugby. While our first impression was that the issue was complicated, we had no idea. We’ve since spent every day trying to piece together the sequence of events, understand the involved parties and the failures to these players.
We were preparing to share the results of our investigation and present our findings, but then we were told that
Empire Heavner hasn’t published the final report from the disciplinary hearing. At this time, we feel that if we release our findings it would be inappropriate as there has been no final determination. We’ve been assured that the final disciplinary report from Empire Heavner on behalf of USA Rugby should be delivered to the accused soon.
Rest assured, our investigation will not be for nought and we will release our findings. As always, we appreciate your support and understanding.
*We initially understood that USA Rugby declined to investigate several SafeSport reports and instead requested Empire GU handle it. We had it confirmed yesterday that this was not the case and that in fact, USA Rugby did investigate the issue through World Rugby Judicial Officer (JO), Gary Heavner. It was thought he was acting on behalf of Empire because he is also the Chair of their Disciplinary Committee, but in fact he was personally requested to adjudicate this by USA Rugby. More to come.