A civil lawsuit is expected to be filed in Rhode Island against the Pittsburgh Penguins, former AHL coach Clark Donatelli, former Scranton/Wilkes-Barre general manager Bill Guerin and Penguins owners Mario Lemieux and Ronald Burkle on behalf of Erin Skalde, who alleges that Donatelli sexually assaulted her and the organization covered it up, then retaliated against her husband, Jarrod, for reporting it.
Additionally, the law firm filing the suit, Romanucci & Blandin, said a second woman came forward on Tuesday alleging a similar assault by Donatelli.
Jarrod Skalde was an assistant coach for the Penguins’ AHL affiliate, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, in 2018 when the team was on a road trip to Providence. In a suit filed on Nov. 3 of last year, Jarrod Skalde alleged that Donatelli, then the head coach of the AHL team, assaulted Erin twice during the trip.
According to the lawsuit, Donatelli reached up Erin Skalde’s shirt and touched her breasts when Jarrod was in the bathroom at a restaurant. On the car ride home, with Jarrod driving and Donatelli and Erin sitting in the backseat, Donatelli allegedly reached down her pants and touched her vagina.
“The team’s handling of the incident included Jarrod being told to keep quiet by organization management, Erin being called a liar and never being interviewed as part of the team’s investigation, along with Jarrod being fired from the organization,” Romanucci & Blandin said in a statement. “Additionally, the Penguins organization has made public comments that show an utter disregard for the experience of a sexual assault victim and have retraumatized her multiple times.”
The lawsuit comes as Guerin, the assistant GM of the U.S. Olympic Program, is also under investigation by U.S. Center for SafeSport for his handling of the claim. If he is found to have violated SafeSport’s code of conduct, Guerin could be temporarily or permanently removed from his position.
The GM of the U.S. Olympic Program, Stan Bowman, resigned last week after the Jenner & Block report detailed his role in failing to handle Kyle Beach’s 2010 claim of sexual assault while with the Blackhawks. The Hockey News has reported Guerin will be named his replacement, but TSN’s Rick Westhead reported Monday that Guerin won’t be promoted until cleared by SafeSport.
Jarrod Skalde allegedly confronted Donatelli about the incident in May 2019. Donatelli said he was too drunk to remember. Six days later, when confronted by Erin Skalde, Donatelli allegedly said he would tell Guerin of the incident, but never did. Donatelli later resigned in June 2019 after Skalde reported it.
Skalde was laid off after the pandemic, and now alleges that the team got rid of his position under the auspices of COVID-19 related cutbacks. It’s also alleged that Guerin asked Skalde to keep the reason for Donatelli’s exit quiet, and that the team punished Skalde for reporting the assault.
“We took this Wilkes-Barre/Scranton incident very seriously and acted immediately,” the Penguins said in a statement.
“The team investigated and addressed the alleged incident within hours of being notified in June 2019, despite the fact that Mr. Skalde delayed seven months before he reported the incident.
“Immediately upon receiving the report, a full investigation was conducted within 72 hours, and the former coach resigned from the organization.
“Following the report, Mr. Skalde continued to coach in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for an additional year, until we made significant staff reductions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
A scheduled press conference to discuss the allegations was postponed by Romanucci & Blandin after the second woman came forward.
“Our legal team is moving quickly to investigate these facts, the similar pattern of assault and Donatelli’s acting with unbridled impunity,” founding partner Antonio Romanucci said in a statement. “We look forward to holding him and others who were involved accountable for their actions. The time of reckoning has arrived, time to stop the stench of hockey culture putting sports before the sanctity of human decency.”
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