In New York State on August 5, 2020, two lawsuits were filed by sex abuse survivors against George Morris and the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), seeking damages for negligence, sexual assault of a minor, and emotional distress.
In California, a third lawsuit seeking damages was filed by Gigi Gaston against the USEF and Flintridge Riding Club, the facility in Southern California where former Show Jumping Hall of Fame trainer, Jimmy Williams, taught for nearly four decades and allegedly abused Gaston and other minors. Williams died in 1993 at age 76.
Morris, now 82 years old, was the former U.S. Equestrian Team show jumping chef d’equipe. He was banned for life one year ago by the USEF after an investigation into the allegations of sexual abuse by the U.S. Center for SafeSport. See Hard Landing - George Morris Permanently Banned.
Above/Below: George Morris at The Mane Event Equine Expo in Chilliwack, BC, in October 2008. Photos: Robin Duncan Photography
Fearing the negative impact on their own riding careers and given the stature of these trainers who were widely regarded as the best of the best, in all three cases the survivors had remained silent for years. The lawsuits, which seek financial damages, were filed under two newly enacted laws in California and New York that extend the statute of limitations for survivors of sexual abuse, namely the California Child Victims Act and the New York Child Victims Act. The sex abuse lawsuits were filed by Jeff Anderson & Associates, and a press release on the law firm’s website, Former United States Olympic Coach Sued for Sex Abuse, outlines the details and provides links to the filed documents.
The press release states that Morris and Williams, each widely regarded as elite within equestrian sport, had been accused of child sexual abuse previously. The new filings paint a broader picture of abuse and cover-up from the summit of the industry, reaching across the entire country.
“Morris and Williams were kingmakers within the equestrian world. The future children of the equestrian community are safer because these men are now gone,” said attorney Mike Reck of Jeff Anderson & Associates. “Their prestige as coaches, access to resources and influence gave them enormous power over the careers of young equestrians. They took full advantage of this power while the greater equestrian community turned a blind eye to the abuse of minors for decades. The Child Victims Acts of New York and California have empowered these courageous survivors to expose the damage perpetrated by these men.”