Questions Swirl About How Miami University Handled Assault Claim Against A Former Blackhawks Coach

Chicago Blackhawks
A sixth allegation against a former Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach has surfaced in public records obtained by WBEZ. Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press
Chicago Blackhawks
A sixth allegation against a former Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach has surfaced in public records obtained by WBEZ. Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press

Questions Swirl About How Miami University Handled Assault Claim Against A Former Blackhawks Coach

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Police investigated a former Chicago Blackhawks coach in 2018 for the possible sexual assault of a male college student who wanted his case documented in case the coach “does something like this again, particularly to children,” newly released law enforcement records show.

But the investigation at Miami University, about 280 miles southeast of Chicago, appeared to quickly dead end, with police there closing the case after only interviewing the student and without talking with the former coach nor forwarding any information to county prosecutors, according to interviews and documents obtained by WBEZ.

The revelation involving another possible victim of Brad Aldrich, a former Blackhawks video coach, is at least the sixth known allegation against him in police reports or court files. It raises troubling questions about whether another Aldrich employer failed to engage police about his alleged sexual misconduct ahead of his 2013 conviction for sexually assaulting a teenaged high school boy in Michigan.

That former Michigan student and a former Blackhawks player who alleged Aldrich sexually assaulted him in 2010 filed lawsuits against the Blackhawks last month. Both allege the Blackhawks knew of the sexual assault allegations but did nothing.

Those lawsuits, along with the unearthing of past police reports and investigations into Aldrich, have put Chicago’s National Hockey League franchise in the global spotlight over whether it looked the other way about alleged wrongdoing by its ex-coach, enabling him to move out of state without consequences and harm a teen.

Chicago attorney Susan Loggans, who is representing the former Michigan high school hockey player and the ex-Blackhawk player, questioned now whether Miami University also knew of alleged sexual misconduct by Aldrich in 2012, yet failed to inform police then.

Loggans also told WBEZ that as many as a dozen NHL players, including many from the 2010 Stanley Cup championship Blackhawks team, have come forward to her to corroborate the claims of her ex-hockey player client and to express empathy.

“Not one person has called and said anything other than ‘We all knew what was going on. We’re so sorry,’ ” she said.

Aldrich left the Blackhawks in 2010 — though the team has not made clear whether he resigned or was terminated — and wound up at Miami University as a $30,000 a year assistant hockey coach in 2012. He left after only five months.

Last week, under the glare of the litigation against the Blackhawks over Aldrich’s alleged wrongdoing, Miami University disclosed it had hired a law firm to investigate Aldrich’s time at the college for “allegations of improper conduct.”

The Blackhawks this week announced they too have hired an outside firm to conduct a review of what happened.

Police investigate six years after Aldrich resigned “under suspicion”

WBEZ has reported that Miami University’s top lawyer told investigators in 2013 that Aldrich resigned as the college’s director of hockey operations in November 2012 “under suspicion of unwanted touching of a male adult,” according to a Houghton, Mich., investigation report obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

But, if there were any Miami University records created to document the allegation in 2012 or 2013, they were not provided to WBEZ. Miami University did not respond to questions from WBEZ about why there appears to be no earlier records of the alleged incident.

What Miami University did release in response to WBEZ’s open records request for all documents concerning Aldrich is a 2018 police report about an alleged sexual offense against a student in 2012. Although the name of the suspect and victim are redacted, the police report timeline and information describing the suspect match Aldrich. It’s not clear whether this alleged incident is the same one the university cited in 2013 as being associated with Aldrich’s resignation.

The police report said Miami University police were contacted in 2018 about the alleged sexual assault of the former college student by police at another unidentified university where the student was attending.

A police detective wrote to the student in August 2018, offering him information about how to file a complaint or resources of support. Weeks later, the student responded.

“I’m sorry for the delay in responding to this, I’ve been very conflicted on the best course of action & to be completely honest I’m horrifically embarrassed about this and would prefer to forget this ever happened,” the student wrote back.

The student went on to say that he wasn’t aiming to press charges against Aldrich or Miami University. “I would, however, like something on [the] record in case he ever does something like this again, particularly to children,” he wrote.

The reports show the student spoke with Miami University police on Sept. 7 and shared with a sergeant details of the alleged incident, much of which are redacted.

A lawyer representing Miami University justified the redactions by citing privacy guarantees in the Ohio state constitution and state law that bar the release of “intimate details of the sexual assault and identity of the victim.”

However, the report did reveal that the former student told police Aldrich “took me under his wing.”

The report indicated Aldrich had invited the student to go to a campus bar and after an evening of drinking said, “it would probably be easier if you just stay at my place.” The student agreed, “thinking that he would sleep on the sofa,” the report said.

But after falling asleep on the sofa, the student “stated he was startled awake” by Aldrich. Parts of the sentences following that are redacted, but the report included that the student “shoved” Aldrich off of him and walked home.

The Miami University police report indicated the sergeant said she would forward the investigation to Oxford, Ohio, police and the agency closed their own file. No charges appear to have been filed against Aldrich at that time.

In May, Oxford police told WBEZ it had no records regarding Aldrich in response to a WBEZ open records request.

But a week after publishing this story, an Oxford police spokesman contacted WBEZ stating the department did in fact receive the Miami University police report, but that Oxford police “did not produce any reports related to that information due to the lack of a responsive victim.”

In an interview with WBEZ, Butler County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Gmoser said his office was never contacted about the allegations raised with Miami University police regarding Aldrich in 2018.

“I would like to know what happened to that report and why it was never transferred to my task force dealing with sex abuse issues. Did it get lost in the shuffle in some way? Or fall through the cracks, as often is said with respect to things that go missing?” Gmoser said. “I don’t know the answer to that, but I am going to find out.”

The records provided to WBEZ also include one page detailing an investigation into the allegations by the university’s Title IX office. The record shows the office closed the investigation in October 2018 without action, citing several unanswered attempts to contact the student and the fact that Aldrich had already left their employment.

But Gmoser said that regardless of whether the student wanted to pursue charges against Aldrich, it wasn’t the student’s call to make.

“Ultimately, victims do play a role by law in the evaluation of certain issues. I have to take them into consideration. But they are not the deciders of how cases are ultimately determined for prosecution,” Gmoser said. “That happens to be me, as well as the prosecutors across the state of Ohio.”

“Had this been stopped …”

The allegations at Miami University resemble a similar scenario involving the teen boy in Houghton, Mich., who told police in 2013 about the assault by Aldrich. That case eventually resulted in Aldrich’s misdemeanor conviction of fourth degree criminal sexual conduct, landing him on Michigan’s sex offender registry.

In that instance, according to the police investigation report, Aldrich climbed into bed with the high school hockey player and assaulted him after the boy fell asleep following a night of heavy drinking.

Aldrich’s attorney, Matthew Eliason, did not respond to questions from WBEZ Wednesday about his client’s interactions with the former Miami University student or whether campus police ever contacted him about the allegations.

But Loggans, the attorney representing the former Michigan teen and the ex-Blackhawks player, said there is significance in the release of these records by Miami University.

“Had this been stopped with the Blackhawks, none of this would [be] likely to have occurred. And the same thing is true with [Miami University],” Loggans said. “Had they at that moment stopped and done a complete investigation, certainly Aldrich wouldn’t have been hired downstream and been given the opportunity to molest [my client.]”

“We’ve got to become a society where each institution takes responsibility for the safety of the whole population affected by their behavior,” she said.

Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold cover Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow them @davemckinney and @tonyjarnold.