Retired Ohio State University wrestling coach Russ Hellickson texted two former wrestlers, pushing them to reverse their statements accusing Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) of lying about his ignorance of rampant sexual assault on the team, according to a Wednesday NBC report.
The two wrestlers—Dunyasha Yetts and Mike DiSabato—told NBC that the texts made it clear that Hellickson was acting at the behest of Jordan to shore up support.
Yetts shared screenshots of the June 4 conversation with NBC.
“Your [sic] a special part of my coaching career. I’m sorry you got caught up in the media train,” Hellickson texted. “If you think the story got told wrong about Jim, you could probably write a statement for release that tells your story and corrects what you feel bad about. I can put you in contact with someone who would release it.”
Yetts told NBC that Hellickson called him later that day to reinforce the message.
“He said, ‘I will defend Jimmy until I have to put my hand on a Bible and be asked to tell the truth, then Jimmy will be on his own,’” Yetts said, quoting the phone conversation. “I told him, ‘I’m going to contradict you, coach, because I’m telling the truth.’”
Yetts has said that he, along with many of his teammates, was molested by team doctor Richard Strauss, and that he directly told Jordan about it back when the congressman was the team’s assistant coach.
He also claims that after he turned down Hellickson, Jordan’s defenders started digging into his personal life, using his unrelated criminal record to discredit him. Another former wrestler corroborated the intimidation scheme, telling NBC: “What a world we’re living in when a member of Congress is digging up dirt on sex abuse victims like us,” adding that he preferred to stay anonymous because his family is “terrified” of retribution from Jordan.
DiSabato, the other wrestler who Hellickson contacted, declined to give NBC screenshots of the conversation, but said: “He said Jimmy was telling him he had to make a statement supporting him and he called to tell me why he was going to make it.”
DiSabato, the initial whistleblower who also says he was molested, has video footage of Hellickson discussing the hostile atmosphere which included voyeurs and masturbators lurking at the team’s practice facilities, along with Strauss’ alleged assaults.
“Certainly all my administrators recognized it was an issue for me,” Hellickson says in the footage. “I’m sure that I talked to them on numerous occasions about my discontent with the environment…But nothing ever changed.”
By last count, nine former wrestlers have come forward to assert that Jordan definitely knew about the rampant sexual abuse. Jordan has consistently protested his ignorance.
Strauss committed suicide in 2005 and the university has since opened an investigation into the allegations. Jordan was interviewed as part of the probe in late June.