KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Attorneys representing alleged victims in a federal sexual abuse case involving cheerleaders spoke about the lawsuit Thursday, saying what they learned during their investigation is “disturbing and disgusting.”
Attorneys Ally Benevento, employed by Strom Law Firm, and John Ray Clemmons, employed by Clemmons & Clemons, PLLC, are seeking relief for multiple survivors and named abusers that include Knoxville-based Premier Athletics, as well as a now-former University of Tennessee cheerleader.
“The things we have seen and the facts we allege in this complaint are truly disturbing and shock the conscious. and they go well beyond – outside societal norms of acceptable behavior,” said Clemmons, who is also a Tennessee State Representative.
Competitive cheer company Varsity Spirit, U.S. All Star Federation, USA Federation of Sport Cheering, private investment companies Bain Capital and Charlesbank Capital Partners and Knoxville-based Premier Athletics are accused by 102 plaintiffs of gross negligence, violating The Protecting Young Victims From Sexual Abuse Act and violations of the RICO Act, among other violations in a 71-page lawsuit filed Sept. 27.
“From a human standpoint, it’s incredibly disturbing and disgusting. These children are being abused – sometimes out in the open in these gyms with adults who are supposed to be taking care of them. And you have adults doing the abuse and adults ignoring and covering up the abuse,” Benevento said.
Two unnamed victims — one from Knox County, the other from Union County — allege in the lawsuit that now-former University of Tennessee cheerleader Dominick Frizzell solicited them for sex and sent sexually explicit photos and videos. One of the victims was 14 years old at the time of the alleged abuse, according to the lawsuit.
Premier Athletics said in a statement that they have “taken all of the appropriate steps” based on the reports they received and that allegations do not pertain to current ownership.
Benevento also said people need to know there are real victims here, people who were courageous to come forward and now are getting help and trying to heal from the abuse they say happened.
The attorneys have requested a trial by jury.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Updated the attorney’s titles and place of employment.