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Judge: Lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by former U of M hockey coach doesn’t belong in Minn. federal courts

The case involves Tom “Chico” Adrahtas, who began coaching youth hockey in Illinois in the early 1980s, worked as an assistant men’s coach for the University of Minnesota in 1984-85 and coached elsewhere until 2018.

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ST. PAUL -- A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed all claims in a lawsuit against the University of Minnesota and two hockey organizations concerning a former coach’s alleged sexual abuse against several hockey players and recruits.

The lawsuit can’t move forward in Minnesota’s federal courts because the court lacks jurisdiction for a variety of reasons, U.S. District Judge Eric Tostrud wrote.

Each of the 31 counts was dismissed without prejudice, which means the eight plaintiffs still may pursue their allegations in a new lawsuit.

Their Chicago attorney, Nick Economakos, said he’ll consider filing an appeal or multiple individual complaints in federal or state courts.

“We are disappointed with Judge Tostrud’s ruling today, but we understand that finding the appropriate jurisdiction for such a complex matter involving parties from multiple states is complicated,” he said.

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The case involves Tom “Chico” Adrahtas, who began coaching youth hockey in Illinois in the early 1980s, worked as an assistant men’s coach for the University of Minnesota in 1984-85 and coached elsewhere until 2018.

Several hockey players, including some who played for the Gophers, say Adrahtas would routinely offer them oral sex from a woman named “Sheila,” as long as the players were blindfolded and had their limbs restrained.

The players say they eventually discovered “Sheila” actually was Adrahtas and, at times, other men who they believed paid Adrahtas for the opportunity.

The players were between the ages of 14 and 20 when the abuse is alleged to have taken place.

Adrahtas was working for the university when he is alleged to have assaulted, or tried to assault, plaintiffs Michael Sacks, Jeffrey Walker, Christopher Jensen and Frank Pietrangelo, as well as an unnamed man.

According to the lawsuit, the university allowed Adrahtas to resign after some players disclosed the scheme, but the university failed to warn the coach’s next employer, enabling Adrahtas to abuse more junior hockey players in Illinois.

Plaintiffs Brent Cary, Benjamin Cole and Kelly Gee say Adrahtas abused them between 1988 and 2003.

Adrahtas’ last coaching job was head coach at Robert Morris University Illinois; he resigned in November 2018, two months after Sacks filed the complaint with Robert Morris and the American Collegiate Hockey Association that brought the scheme to light.

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More players came forward following news coverage in 2020. Also that year, the University of Minnesota hired a law firm, which found its athletics department was aware of the allegations in the 1980s and failed to act.

“The University of Minnesota admitted that key members of the University were aware of the sexual assault allegations against Thomas Adrahtas, and that they did not report or investigate him,” Economakos said Tuesday. “If they had, Adrahtas would not have coached and sexually assaulted players for four decades.”

A spokesman for the U of M and lawyers for Adrahtas did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Adrahtas, now 66 and living in Florida, has not been charged criminally.

Waited too long

Judge Tostrod wrote that the alleged abuse took place too long ago to pursue certain federal claims now because there’s a six-year statute of limitations. And a Minnesota law that places no time limit on claims related to the sexual abuse of children doesn’t apply to federal claims.

Civil rights claims against the U and its Board of Regents were dismissed because the institutions are not considered a “person” who can be sued for damages.

Tostrod dismissed the remaining counts, which implicate state laws against negligence, fraud assault and battery, because with no surviving federal counts, those state claims belong in state courts.

The judge also noted that Minnesota is not the proper venue for the lawsuit because Adrahtas hasn’t lived here in 36 years and half the plaintiffs spent no time here. Adrahtas allegedly carried out the scheme while in Illinois, Massachusetts and Florida, as well as Minnesota.

Besides the University of Minnesota, the lawsuit named USA Hockey and Amateur Hockey Association Illinois as defendants.

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