The legal problems for disgraced former Concordia University baseball coach Spiro Lempesis are mounting even as he staunchly maintains his innocence.
With a federal lawsuit already pending, a new lawsuit was filed Jan. 7 in Cook County Circuit Court. It alleges Lempesis sexually abused a Concordia ballplayer over a 10-year period, starting when the player was a boy attending a baseball camp hosted by Lempesis at the school.
The new lawsuit is the first time direct accusations have been made that Lempesis molested a Concordia baseball camp participant, something Lempesis vehemently denies.
“I’ve been around 2,000 kids at baseball camps in my time,” Lempesis said in an interview last week. “And no one’s come forward with any complaints.”
Anthony Collaro, who had previously accused Lempesis of coercing sexual acts in a 2011 lawsuit that was later withdrawn, filed the new suit on Jan. 7.
The 12-count, 57-page filing accuses Lempesis of molesting Collaro as a boy, then coercing him into videotaped sex acts while Collaro was a Concordia baseball player.
Concordia University fired Lempesis as head baseball coach in 2010.
The lawsuit refers frequently to Lempesis’ alleged sexual abuse of minors as stated in a July 2013 federal lawsuit filed by former Burr Ridge Middle School student-athlete Adam Kelly, while making many new allegations regarding his conduct at Concordia.
The discovery process is underway in the federal suit with a goal of concluding that portion of the process by spring.
Numerous people have been identified as potential witnesses in the federal trial, including members of the Burr Ridge Middle School “board, administration, faculty-parent board, PTA, and/or other parents and teachers.” All, the suit contends, “felt Lempesis’ behavior with students was inappropriate … and/or were suspicious” of him.
Lempesis said on Feb. 11 that his attorney has not yet filed a response to Collaro’s allegations in the new circuit court lawsuit, but he categorically denied the allegations in both suits. He dismissed Collaro’s contention of recovered memories, accusing both him and Kelly of being motivated solely by money.
He said Collaro is borrowing elements from Kelly’s lawsuit to strengthen his case.
“All they’re doing is going at it at different angles to try to make accusations stick,” he said. “All I can tell you is, in both cases, when the truth comes out, you’ll realize I’m innocent.” (See sidebar with extended Lempesis comments.)
Collaro’s attorneys allege that, based on Lempesis’ “prior history as a sexual predator,” Concordia should have known about his alleged history as a pedophile and his subsequent behavior on the university’s campus.
Not only did Concordia not supervise Lempesis properly, Collaro alleges, Lempesis was granted special treatment due to his status as the winningest athletic coach in school history.
Collaro said Lempesis presented a front of invincibility due to his reputed friendships with key university officials, and that Lempesis coerced him into sexual acts by “highlighting his friendship with top Concordia administrators and building himself up as an ‘untouchable’ member of the Concordia staff.”
“Nothing can happen to me at this school. I have the backing of the administration,” Lempesis is alleged to have said. “They believe I can take this [baseball] program where it needs to be.”
“I’m in with [Concordia Vice President for Finance Tom] Hallett,” he purportedly said another time. “We’re goods friends, and he loves baseball. … Our budget is bigger than everyone else’s.”
Collaro also accused Lempesis of threatening his playing time and Major League prospects.
“If you say anything [about the sexual exploitation], no one will believe you and I will deny it,” Lempesis allegedly told Collaro. “You will have a really, really hard time here.”
Collaro accuses Concordia University of breaching its responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment for him on campus and accuses the school of negligence in failing to properly supervise Lempesis.
Concordia, he said, did not investigate “reports or rumors of inappropriate sexual behavior, conduct and/or abuse by Lempesis” while he was baseball coach at the school.
Besides his coaching duties at Burr Ridge Middle School some 20 years ago, Lempesis was also an athletic coach and faculty advisor to the school’s booster club. Several parents reportedly had multiple meetings with the school district related to Lempesis allegedly engaging in inappropriate conduct with students. Those parents asked the school board to have Lempesis removed as a liaison to the booster club.
After leaving Burr Ridge, Lempesis worked at his father’s restaurant, then as an athletic supervisor at the Norridge Park District from May 1998 through 2000, and part time until February 2002.
But Collaro alleges that from the time he met Lempesis in 2000 at age 10 “and continuing through high school,” Lempesis would frequently rub his shoulders and back, and slap his butt after plays.
Collaro said Lempesis sexually molested him as a high school sophomore and junior on numerous occasions after late evening pitching lessons at Concordia.
Kelly, who brought the federal suit based on alleged incidents in Burr Ridge, said that in June 2010, he had an angry confrontation at a middle school reunion event with a former classmate he alleges played a hand in his sexual abuse. That, he said, triggered memories.
In June 2011, Kelly, who now lives in Louisiana with his wife and children, began psychotherapy to deal with ongoing emotional problems including depression, anger and substance abuse.
“It was then that his repressed memories about the sexual abuse performed by [Lempesis] started to come back,” Kelly’s lawsuit states.
Collaro also alleges he suppressed his memory of the earlier sexual abuse as a child, until the physical effects of the abuse “started taking its toll” about a year after his graduation from Concordia. He said he has been in therapy since January 2013 and continues to remember more details of the abuse.