Earlier this week, allegations were made against Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, that the stalwart conservative and Freedom Caucus leader turned a blind eye to sexual abuse while coaching wrestling at Ohio State University from 1986 to 1994.
NBC News reported the allegations, which were made by three former OSU wrestlers who claimed it was common knowledge that Dr. Richard Strauss, the team doctor from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s, sexually abused members of the wrestling team. Strauss died in 2005, but in April 2018, OSU announced the school had launched an investigation into the sexual abuse allegations. Mike DiSabato, Dunyasha Yetts, and one former teammate who declined to identify himself also claimed that Jordan, who worked as an assistant coach, knew of the abuse and did nothing.
“Congressman Jordan never saw any abuse, never heard about any abuse, and never had any abuse reported to him during his time as a coach at Ohio State,” Jordan’s communications director, Ian Fury, told NBC News. Still, DiSabato, who has been making the rounds on cable TV, has called Jordan a liar. “I considered Jim Jordan a friend,” DiSabato said. “But at the end of the day, he is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on.” Yetts has claimed he reported the abuse directly to Jordan. The anonymous alleged victim said it was common knowledge that Strauss “used to take showers with the team even though he didn’t do any workouts, and everybody used to snicker about how you go into his office for a sore shoulder and he tells you to take your pants down.”
Jordan does not dispute the point about the showers. According to the Washington Examiner’s Philip Wegmann, “[Jordan] says Strauss showered with the team in the same way that athletes from other sports, intramural students, and professors used the same facilities. ‘We were in a common, giant area,’ Jordan remembers 24 years later. ‘It was one common shower.’”
Most recently, a fourth accuser, Shawn Dailey, has come forward. Dailey wrestled at OSU during Jordan’s tenure and claims that Jordan was involved in talks about Strauss’ behavior, but he also says that he did not report alleged abuse directly to Jordan at the time.
These are serious accusations, and the accusers ought to be taken seriously. Close examination, however, reveals that Jordan’s initial accusers might not be the most credible of witnesses.
Here’s what we know:
1) DiSabato has a long history of litigation:
DiSabato, who comes from a family of wrestlers, has a reputation for getting involved in lawsuits, most notably against Ohio State University. In 2006, his sports licensing company lost its contract with the school when OSU signed an exclusive deal with Nike. He sued in 2008 and then eventually settled out of court. In 2017, one of his business ventures joined yet another lawsuit against the school, this time a class action regarding the use of former student athletes’ images without their consent. He is longer a part of the lawsuit.
Yet another one of DiSabato’s business ventures, MMA Authentics, has been sued by mixed martial arts stars Chuck Liddell and Don Henderson over merchandising rights, and DiSabato was also slapped with a $4.5 million judgement in a case back in 2009.
2) DiSabato has a reputation of harassment and intimidation:
According to an in-depth story at the Daily Caller, police records show that DiSabato was arrested in February on charges of making threats against Bret Adams. Adams, a sports, agent, currently represents Chris Spielman, a former Buckeyes football star and NFL all-pro player.
The connection? Spielman is listed as an investor in the DiSabato business interest in the class-action lawsuit against OSU mentioned above, and DiSabato signed Spielman to a marketing contract in the 2000s.
DiSabato has also been accused of bullying a fallen Marine’s widow — Karen Mendoza — over a memorial fund she set up in her late husband’s name. Ray Mendoza, who was killed in action in Iraq in 2005, was DiSabato’s former teammate while Jordan was a coach.
“I do believe Mike’s initial intent was pure but later tarnished with his personal greed and objectives,” reads a statement from Karen obtained by CRTV. “To protect my late husband’s legacy, I was forced to retain legal counsel to file a cease and desist to Mike DiSabato and a fund he controlled which was in Ray’s name.”
3) DiSabato has had previous beefs with the Jordan family:
DiSabato’s confrontational relationship with Jim Jordan and the Jordan family extends well beyond his college wrestling days. The Jordans are themselves a family of wrestlers. Jim’s brother, Jeff, runs a wrestling camp and also runs his own line of sports apparel. Emails obtained by CRTV show DiSabato attempting to report Jeff’s sons Micah and Bo — Ohio State wrestlers — for supposedly violating NCAA rules by wearing kneepads produced by their father’s business. Ultimately, Jeff Jordan and a spokesperson for Jim Jordan say, the university found that the use of the kneepads was not in violation of the NCAA’s amateurism regulations.
Additionally, for months, Rep. Jordan has been receiving cryptic, emoji-laden, and threatening emails (which CRTV has obtained) that he’s been forwarding to his attorney and chief of staff. One received on Wednesday afternoon was “the last straw” that prompted Jordan to seek the assistance of United States Capitol Police.
4) What about Dunyasha Yetts?
Dunyasha Yetts — the other named accuser — is a convicted felon. He spent 18 months in prison after he pled guilty to federal fraud charges for scamming investors out of almost $2 million. That’s not the end of Yetts’ financial woes; his wife recently had a judgment against her for not paying back a bank loan.
5) The law firm doing the investigation has a political past:
The law firm behind the current investigation at OSU is Perkins Coie, LLP — the very same company that paid for the infamous “dirty dossier” about President Trump and retained the cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike after learning that the Democratic National Committee’s servers had been hacked.
6) Who pinged who?
There’s also a sub-controversy about whether or not Perkins Coie actually did reach out to Jordan for his assistance with the investigation. The firm says it did; Jordan’s office says it didn’t. The email records obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation show that the extent of the firm’s outreach was a pair of emails sent to an inactive House email address in May. Jordan’s office phone numbers are public information. It’s not that hard to pick up a phone when you don’t get an email response.
7) Others who know Jordan deny this happened:
“I am very distressed to hear that Mike DiSabato’s displaced personal vendetta has led to hostility filled accusations that Jim Jordan turned a blind eye to ANYTHING, let alone sexual abuse,” the emailed statement from Karen Mendoza also reads. “Long before Jimmy was a public servant, he lived the example of a man that Ray wanted to grow into with his own family.”
George Pardos, a wrestler during Jordan’s coaching tenure turned Marine Corps veteran, says that the allegations are bunk.
“For Jimmy to know that this was going on and not do anything about it, it wouldn’t happen. It’s completely out of character,” Pardos told The Hill. “I’ve had dinner at his house, worked out with him. This didn’t happen.”
Pardos also accused his former teammates of trying to line their pockets through sexual abuse allegations following the $500 million settlement that Michigan State University struck with hundreds of victims of gymnastics coach Larry Nassar earlier this year.
“After Larry Nassar, everyone is seeing dollar signs,” Pardos said. This is important to keep in mind, since the two named accusers have a clear history of financial problems.
If the allegations against Jordan seem suspicious, it’s not hard to see why. Jordan’s accusers do not have credible records of honest dealing. The investigation into Strauss’ abuse ought to continue uninhibited, and Jordan has a responsibility to help the investigators in any way he can. But Jordan’s accusers, especially those with a history of defrauding others for personal gain, ought not to be uncritically believed before the congressman has had a fair hearing.