GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The former Detroit Tiger and New York Yankee found guilty of sexually assaulting four girls at Lakewood High School will pay one of his victims $1.8 million.
The victim and her father were questioned in Grand Rapids Federal Court Thursday by Chad Curtis, who appeared via video from his jail cell.
The now-22-year-old woman had to endure questioning from the man she once considered a role model in athletics and morality and who instead betrayed her trust by sexually assaulting her in a dark room off Lakewood High School’s weight room when she was 16.
But as traumatic as the assault was, the treatment she suffered from her peers and the Lakewood community left just as many scars.
“Our friends, her friends, completely abandoned her,” the victim’s father testified. “She’s never been the same.”
Curtis, who went from the major leagues to working as a part-time high school weight trainer, is in the fourth year of a 7- to 15-year sentence after he was found guilty of assaulting the teen girls between the summer of 2011 and the fall of 2012.
In his 2013 trial, the main witness against him was a girl he had been coaching for three years. The girl and Curtis shared their faith and she became best friends with Curtis’ daughter, who was the same age and she said she also loved his infant son.
She said in court Thursday that it was her love of his family and her assailant’s claim that he was sorry and would never do it again that made her decide to keep quiet for eight months.
That changed when other girls came forward saying they had also suffered abuse at his hands. The girl, who was a star athlete with colleges looking at her for scholarships, decided to come forward, too.
Curtis would not admit his guilt but would call the victim’s liars. Even in court Thursday, Curtis maintained that his victim was committing perjury and fraud.
But she told Judge Janet Neff that her life has been shattered by her treatment by Curtis and the people she considered her friends. She was stigmatized, isolated, the subject of personal attacks in person and on social media that led to her changing her phone number and even schools in her senior year.
“They were like wolves,” her father said of her high school peers.
Her father, her sister and a social worker testified about how a girl who was once outgoing and popular now finds it impossible to form friendships and trust people. She has not been able to stay in college or play basketball again. She attended a community college and went to a four-year university, but her inability to form relationships sabotaged her efforts, her father testified. The family believes she will need help for her entire life.
Her older sister quoted the victim as saying, “I think while I’m here, I’m meant to suffer.”
Her father said his daughter told him, ‘Every day I get up, I have to decide to live or die.”
In court, the victim talked about her life since she was assaulted as a 16-year-old by a 42-year-old man she trusted.
“I can’t trust anybody,” she said. “It makes me feel alone all of the time.”
The young woman had to, once again, tell a room of strangers about how when she was alone with Curtis in the school how he molested her.
She then was questioned by Curtis, who proceeded to define fraud and perjury. He reminded her about the books he had given her on the topics of Christian values related to “purity.” He apologized to her and her family, but never came out and admitted guilt.
Curtis had previously settled suits with the other victims and claimed the amount was $10,000 in court Thursday. He reminded the victim’s father that if there was a large award in this case, it would be a lifetime of their families “still being linked.” He offered the victim $75,000 to settle this case.
In a settlement this spring, Lakewood Schools will pay the four victims a total of $575,000.
After the hearing, the victim’s father said he hopes this final court case will allow his daughter to move on.
“She said what she had to say, she told the truth,” the father said.
In coming to her decision on the judgement, Neff said the fact that even years later the woman is unable to trust and form relationships is the main damage here.
“She can no longer be the person she was,” Neff said.
For his part, Curtis offered an apology of sorts and came as close as he has come to admitting responsibility — whether that will be enough to help when he appears before the parole board in three years remains to be seen.