Jack and Diana

Swimmer Diana Nyad says coach Jack Nelson molested her 40 years ago. Now Nelson´s returning fire.

She recounted five additional incidents that occurred in the back seat of Nelson´s car, a motel room, and a bathroom. ¨The high school years that should have been happy, confident years for me were instead a nightmare,¨ she said. ¨I felt estranged from my teammates because I feared they knew my horrible secret.¨

Although Nyad says she confided in an older friend about a year after the incidents, it was five years later when Nyad, then 22, told her story to a former Pine Crest teammate. Tears streamed down the teammate´s face, Nyad said, then the teammate announced that Nelson had abused her too. The two decided to take action. They also became involved in a one-year lesbian relationship, but when that began is unclear.

The two women met with the headmaster of Pine Crest, William McMillan, and told him everything. Then Nyad, her teammate, and the teammate´s father met with McMillan, Nelson, and Nelson´s attorney at the attorney´s office in Fort Lauderdale. As McMillan remembers it, both girls claimed that Nelson had sex with them, and Nelson denied it.

Jack Nelson has been inducted into six halls of fame.
C. STILES
Jack Nelson has been inducted into six halls of fame.

In a statement to police this year, Nelson said Nyad dreamed up the allegations because ¨she wanted to be a writer, and wanted to have the ability to write things that were not true and make people believe them.¨ He said the other swimmer was coerced into the accusations by her relationship with Nyad.

Cooke, Nelson´s lawyer, told New Times that Nelson left Pine Crest at the end of that year ¨to teach swimmers in a larger pool environment... Coach Nelson was not fired, asked to resign, or terminated as a result of the meeting.¨

In a recent statement to police, McMillan recalled the outcome of that meeting differently: ¨I made some provision to make sure Nelson has no opportunity with any teenaged girls... I forget whether we put a supervisor in the dressing room or his office or what. We terminated his contract as of... well, I think when it ran out some weeks later. I didn´t immediately fire him, but I... I did terminate him.¨

McMillan told police he did not go to authorities at the time to protect the reputations both of the girls and of his school.

When police asked McMillan whether he thought Nelson should be the coach of a team, he simply responded, ¨No, I don´t.¨

Sitting at his dining-room table in John Knox Village last week, McMillan, now 77, had one last thing to add to the statements he gave police. ¨I have a high regard for the honesty and credibility of Diana Nyad,¨ he said.


Although Nelson and daughter Mary Jackson would not speak with New Times, at least some of their position can be gleaned from court documents and their lawyer´s comments. They claim Dillon and Nichols produced knowingly false reports so as to interfere with the Jack Nelson Swim School´s business relationship with the city. They did this ¨so that they could step into the shoes of JNSS and take over the instructional swimming program at the FLAC,¨ their complaint states. As for the damaging packet, it contains some true assertions, said Cooke, but ¨anything in the documents related to Jack Nelson is false.¨

Cooke is preparing the case by interviewing several people who know Nyad, and he claims they have already said things that might ¨shed a different light¨ on her accusations. He doesn´t want Nelson tried in the press, though, so he´s not going into detail about Nyad, he says. Well, maybe one: ¨In college, she jumped out of a building wearing only a sheet,¨ he told New Times.

Cooke said he also plans to investigate Nyad´s career and call into question whether she ever swam as far or as fast as the newspapers say. ¨What evidence is there that she did it?¨ he asks.

Cooke says in his deposition that he also plans to find out why Nyad and any other alleged victims never filed police reports.

¨Why would someone in their 60s file an affidavit?¨ he said. ¨Maybe she´s writing a book.¨

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2 comments
jackhammer111
jackhammer111

someone answer the question raised by Cooke. What evidence is there? Not word of people who are part of her team. Where is data collect and published by independent sources.

divinemize
divinemize

This is an age-old tactic. Let's drag the accusing woman through the mud in order to take the heat off the accused. Yes, he deserves "his day in court" but these kinds of betrayals of trust run so deep and are such a shock to the person who was attacked, that they doubt their own sanity. Especially is they are a teenager. 

They actually feel some loyalty to the person because their lives are so deeply intertwined with the other. It usually happens with a teacher or coach, someone who spends a lot of time with them and crosses all kinds of boundaries in the course of their work together. There needs to be more professional regulations on coaches...they should never be alone with a student, etc. Common sense things. This is a mess and the idea that they are defending themselves because there is a financial contract at stake makes it all the more disgusting. Does headmaster MacMillan's comment mean nothing?


 
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