CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks held settlement talks Tuesday with an attorney for a former player who is suing the team after he accused an assistant coach of sexual assault in 2010 and the team largely ignored the allegations.
The sides met for about an hour, according to Susan Loggans, who represents former first-round pick Kyle Beach. Loggans also is part of a second lawsuit against the team by a former high school student whom Brad Aldrich was convicted of assaulting in Michigan.
Loggans said she explained her basis for a settlement during the meeting, and the Blackhawks' attorneys “listened and discussed issues they feel affect this matter.”
“The meeting was respectful and cordial for each side,” she said. “But each side had different viewpoints. It was decided that an opportunity may exist to move forward. However, both parties will meet with their clients and meet again in the near future.”
Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz and CEO Danny Wirtz, Rocky's son, have asked to meet with Beach, but Loggans said he “wants to see a little bit more about how they're going to treat the settlement issue before he makes his decision.”
The Blackhawks said as late as mid-May that Beach's allegations lacked merit. But an independent review, commissioned by the team in response to the two lawsuits and released last week, showed the organization badly mishandled Beach's allegations that he was assaulted by Aldrich during the team’s 2010 Stanley Cup run. Aldrich told investigators the encounter was consensual.
Former federal prosecutor Reid Schar, who led the investigation, said his law firm found no evidence that Rocky or Danny Wirtz were aware of the allegations before Beach's lawsuit was brought to their attention ahead of its filing. But the report noted that many top executives were aware of the claim, and there was no evidence that the team took any action for about for three weeks.
The NHL fined Chicago $2 million for “the organization’s inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response” to Beach’s allegations. Commissioner Gary Bettman has faced questions about the punishment in comparison to past fines for teams, and Donald Fehr, the leader of the NHL players’ association, has been criticized over the union response.
After Bettman spoke to the media Monday, the team apologized for saying Beach's allegations lacked merit. "It is clear now that our organization did not do the right thing,” it said.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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