“It would be your word against mine, and who do you think they would believe?” a former head baseball coach at Concordia University Chicago warned one of his players, after allegedly coercing the pitcher into making a sex video in exchange for preferential treatment, money, and contact with major- and minor-league scouts.
The coach, Spiro Lempesis, allegedly groomed and sexually abused the player—starting at age 10 and stretching into the player’s college years.
An amended lawsuit, first reported by the Chicago Tribune, was filed on behalf of now 28-year-old former pitcher Anthony Collaro in Cook County Circuit Court on Thursday. Collaro is seeking at least $50,000 in damages from Lempesis and Concordia University.
Lempesis forced Collaro—as well as other teen victims—to “wear a specific uniform” during some of the sexual encounters, including “a white sleeveless shirt, black pants, and/or paraphernalia from the rock band KISS,” the 70-page complaint alleges.
The coach was convicted in December for abusing Collaro, on two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a victim between the ages of 13 and 18 and one count of criminal sexual assault of a victim between the ages of 13 and 17, according to the Tribune. He was reportedly sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“You are a sexual predator that preyed upon a vulnerable minor who was under your authority, control, and what you did was absolutely horrendous,” Judge Gregory Ginex told Lempesis at his criminal trial, according to a court transcript.
Collaro’s civil lawsuit goes a step further, alleging over 12 counts that Lempesis committed sexual battery and that Concordia was negligent, failing in its duty to protect Collaro and other student-athletes from his predations.
“The coach produced wins for Concordia but at what cost?” Collaro’s attorney, Gina DeBoni, told The Daily Beast on Friday. “Since when should dollars matter more than the safety of their students?”
Before he was hired at the university, Lempesis worked as a teacher at a Chicago-area middle school, where he allegedly “sexually abused and raped several minors while the minors participated in after school extracurricular activities.” At least one of the boys was just 13 years old.
Lempesis allegedly exposed that teen to pornography, fondled him, drugged him, and “arranged for others” to rape him. He threatened the boy and his family with “a knife or gun” in order to keep the abuse under wraps, the lawsuit claims.
After parents complained to the school, Lempesis was not rehired for the 1996-1997 school year, the lawsuit says.
“Concordia made no investigation or inquiry” into Lempesis’ tenure at—or departure from—the middle school, and it did not conduct “an adequate background check or review” of the coach, according to the lawsuit.
After Lempesis was hired at Concordia, he met Collaro in 2000, when the boy was just 10 years old, at a summer baseball camp hosted by the school. It was then that Lempesis “first sought to prey” on the boy, according to the lawsuit.
By the time he entered high school, Collaro was taking private pitching lessons from the coach, whom he considered a mentor, the lawsuit claims. The lessons sometimes lasted until 10 p.m.
During these training sessions, Lempesis allegedly watched the boy undress, fondled him, showered with him, and sexually assaulted him. Though the teen told his mother, she “dismissed” the allegations, the lawsuit claims.
In 2007, Collaro—who had an abusive family and financial troubles—accepted an academic scholarship to play baseball for the coach at Concordia University, where he was a pitcher in 2008 and 2009.
Collaro’s complaint alleges that Lempesis coerced him into engaging in at least 30 sex acts in his office over the course of two years at the college, and that he was told to make sex videos by the coach, who promised to help him get in contact with major- and minor-league scouts to help him get drafted.
“Had Concordia conducted a proper employment history reference check, they knew or should have known of Lempesis’ prior history of sexual activities with minors,” the lawsuit claims.
Once at Concordia, the coach “sexually abused multiple students and/or players, including molestation of minors while employed by Concordia,” the lawsuit claims. The abuse was often “videotaped using Concordia’s equipment and on Concordia’s property in shared office space,” it charges.
Lempesis was fired from Concordia in September 2010 after the school received reports about the coach’s inappropriate behavior. Nearly two years later, Lempesis was reportedly arrested after he was found in the backseat of a Honda Civic with a 16-year-old boy in the parking lot of a church at 2 a.m. He allegedly told police he’d met the boy at baseball camp and that they were discussing colleges. Those charges were later dismissed, according to the lawsuit.
Lempesis has, even after his conviction, continued to proclaim his innocence on the abuse charges.
“I never, ever touched him, as he says I did, as a minor,” Lempesis reportedly told the court at his sentencing. “That never happened. I am 100 percent innocent of that.”
A spokesman for Concordia reportedly told the Tribune that the school does not comment on pending litigation.