A mistrial was declared on Thursday in the trial of Scott Shaw, the former head athletic trainer at San Jose State University, who was accused of sexually assaulting female athletes during treatment sessions. After four days of deliberations, the jury deadlocked, leading to the judge’s decision. As the jury left the courtroom, Shaw hugged his mother, both overcome with emotions.
U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman addressed the jurors earlier in the day, urging them not to “bully or antagonize each other” during their deliberations. She emphasized the importance of leaving with goodwill towards each other and reassured them that none of their discomfort was personal.
It remains uncertain whether the prosecutors will continue to pursue the case following the indecisive outcome. The trial, which spanned two weeks, featured compelling testimonies from former female athletes who tearfully described their experiences. They recounted feeling internally panicked, frozen, and alarmed when Shaw touched them inappropriately under their bras and underwear while treating shoulder, back, or knee injuries.
In contrast, other athletic trainers testified that they never engaged in such conduct with female athletes, while former male athletes confirmed that Shaw’s treatment did not involve close proximity to their nipples or groins for similar injuries.
The trial also witnessed conflicting testimonies from two sports medicine doctors. Dr. Cindy Chang, an esteemed expert in the prosecution, shared her professional opinion that Shaw’s actions were “completely inappropriate.” On the other hand, Dr. Brett DeGooyer, the defense expert, presented a contradictory perspective. He claimed that touching the breast or groin could aid injuries in other areas, mentioning a recent instance where he had touched a female athlete’s breast tissue to treat a shoulder injury.
Defense lawyers emphasized that while jurors might deem Shaw’s conduct as improper professional practice due to a lack of proper explanation or consent-seeking regarding his methods, it did not amount to a criminal offense.
Legal representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s office argued that Shaw had been aware for more than a decade that his behavior distressed female athletes but continued nevertheless, leading to the federal charges against him.
This verdict concludes a 14-year-long saga that began in 2009 when a member of the San Jose State swim team shared her discomfort with her coach, refusing to return to Shaw for a shoulder injury: “I don’t feel like getting felt up.” Subsequently, 17 swimmers from the same team came forward, accusing Shaw of inappropriate touching on their breasts and pubic areas.
An internal investigation in 2010 initially cleared Shaw of any wrongdoing, deeming his “trigger point therapy” as a legitimate treatment that involved touching one area of the body to address another. Despite the complaints, Shaw retained his position until his voluntary resignation in 2020.
The swim coach, Sage Hopkins, who had tirelessly advocated for his athletes over the course of a decade, brought attention to the mishandling of the case, triggering further investigations into San Jose State University. These investigations culminated in the university’s payment of over $5 million in settlements and fines, resulting in the departures of former university President Mary Papazian and Athletic Director Marie Tuite in the previous year.
Although there have been more than two dozen complaints against Shaw since 2009, the federal charges brought against him focused on the experiences of four former athletes, occurring within the statute of limitations as recently as 2017.