Editorial: A Swim Team, a Coach, and the Sexual Assault Convictions that Held Him Accountable

Defendant Jon Beber walks into the Boulder County Justice Center after being called in to hear his guilty verdict. (photo: The Nation Report)


The following includes accounts of sexual assault.

“F*****G B*tches” are the words mouthed to Boulder Swimming teammates by convicted Boulder Swimming coach Jon Beber shaking his head in apparent disbelief as he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

Beginning April 8, 2024  three Boulder Swimming club team members confronted their coach in court as adults for sexually assaulting them as teenagers.  Other team members confronted him about other abusive behavior from him which they experienced as teenagers.

Beber was convicted Monday on three counts of Sexual Assault on a Child by One in a Position of Trust by a twelve member jury.  The prosecution was led by Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty and the defendant was represented by Polansky Law Firm of Boulder.

The swimmers first reported the assaults when they were in high school in the early 2000s to a different coach, and to some parents.  This other coach made a report to Colorado Swimming and to USA Swimming but a failure of those receiving any of those reports to follow through by reporting to law enforcement led to Beber’s ability to leave the state without facing charges at the time.

The Swimmers

All witnesses who were formerly on the team and associated parents testified about some form of abuse that happened regularly during practice or at meets.

The three swimmers involved in the charges were part of an elite team of Boulder Swimming’s over 100 member club.  The team competed on a national level at often out-of-state meets and in the last year of its existence, members focused on qualifying for Olympic Trials held in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2002.  One swimmer testified that one of the incidents happened while attending that event.

The charges against Beber included illegal sexual contact with a minor, sexual assault that happened during sports massages, and a rape.

The survivors and parents told of the vulnerability that the defendant became aware of and preyed on that accessibility including a swimmer coming from a single parent household and another whose living arrangement found the swimmer alone and unsupervised.

After one assault, the swimmer covered herself with her team parka and left the pool never to return to practice again.

One swimmer detailed the impact the assault had on her when she took a bottle of alcohol from her parent’s cabinet and didn’t stop drinking until receiving therapeutic help as an adult.

The girls reported the assaults at the time to teammates but remembered that they were accused of lying by some and that one girl even received death threats on her phone from another swimmer.

She said she didn’t talk about it for a time, but then knew she needed to confront Beber to save other girls, “I looked at my [ ] daughters and [decided reporting him] is the right thing to do.”

Dougherty questioned whether she had spent time trying to remember, she disputed, “I have spent years trying to forget.”

Former male teammates testified that they left the team after the ongoing verbal and emotional abuse they received and witnessed coming from Beber.  This departure of boys resulted in a team that was majority girls.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) cites statistics for sexual assault reporting.  In a nationwide survey more than 1 in 3 women and nearly 1 in 4 men experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes.  Nearly 11% of high school students reported experiencing sexual violence.

During jury selection for this trial multiple potential jurors were excused from deliberating this case, some who did not publicly disclose why they did not feel they could judge the case, and others who publicly disclosed that they were a survivor of sexual assault.  Other potential jurors publicly said that the topic was too traumatic for them to continue with the selection process and were excused by Judge Patrick Butler who is scheduled to retire May 11, 2024.  At the end of the first day, 12 jurors were selected ranging in ages from early 20s to mid 70s with educational levels from high school graduation to Ph.D.

Prosecution witnesses painted a picture of a coach who was abusive both emotionally and physically.  Several detailed incidents of fat shaming, continual yelling, humiliation, throwing pool items at them in the pool or swimmer’s belongings into the pool, and grabbing a swimmer by the cap to pull her out of the pool.  Different women told of inappropriate subject matter coming from Beber either over the phone or in person dating back to when they were as young as 13 years old regarding his penis, the girls’ virginity, Sadomasochism, and his disapproval of the girls having a relationship with boys.

Defense witnesses included one testimony by a former Fairview swim coach describing Boulder Swimming at the level of “cult status.”   Another witness, a strength and conditioning practitioner, confirmed that sports massages could be part of a regiment when done on the sternum part of the chest and also around the pubic bone area.  In cross examination Dougherty asked the witness if he had ever conducted a massage to include massaging a woman’s breasts or by touching their vaginas to which the witness answered that he had not and would not.  Further, Dougherty asked if this witness had ever conducted massages in a hotel room or a [pool] shed and again a negative response was returned.

After closing statements were completed, Butler instructed interested parties to remain within 5 minutes of the courtroom.  The jury deliberated for a little over an hour before returning guilty verdicts on all counts.

Although a defendant is constitutionally protected from testifying on their own behalf and the jury was instructed not to bias their judgement on Beber’s decision not to testify observers of the proceedings said they would like to have seen remorse on Beber’s part, “I had thought this former coach opted not to testify in his own behalf leading the audience to imagine he might be remorseful, or ashamed, or reformed in light of the testimony he witnessed of the many lives he hurt, but in the last moment proved he was the incredibly selfish angry predator whom the victims had struggled to unmask all along.”

Editor’s note:  The author is the parent of one of the swimmers.  Family members and observers contributed to this report and will not be named before sentencing due to Beber’s display of violence after the proceedings.

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