A much-heralded change last year to state law regarding the statute of limitations for reporting childhood sexual abuse apparently came too late for a former teenage soccer standout now suing her onetime coach.
Former Northwest Nationals Stellarz youth select player Amy Carnell, 36, whose lawsuit against onetime coach Michael Koslosky, 63, was the subject last Tuesday of a front-page Seattle Times story, had explored pursuing criminal charges on the suggestion last week of the Mountlake Terrace Police Department. But after exploring the matter further with various lawyers, Carnell was advised late last week that the elimination of the limitations statute is not retroactive to cases originating before the law being changed.
“It’s tough to take that they’ve changed the law to help prevent this from happening to people, but it’s not enough to help me,” Carnell said. “This is just one more frustration that adds insult to injury.”
Others familiar with the law — including the state lawmaker that helped orchestrate last year’s changes — agree only current and future child abuse survivors can benefit from them.
Rep. Dan Griffey (R-Allyn), who spent years crafting versions of the new legislation, said the U.S. Constitution prevents retroactively charging people for crimes where the statute of limitations has already expired. Griffey said he tried modifying language on various bills, but each time, constitutional lawyers warned him any new law risked being struck down by future court challenges.
“I just want to give prosecutors every reason to go after the people committing these crimes and give them no excuse to not do it,” said Griffey, whose wife and daughter are sexual-abuse survivors. “But it is very frustrating for those that have been violated at such young ages to find out they might have had hope under the law but we couldn’t make it retroactive under the constitution.”
When Carnell said her abuse began — in the late 1990s and continuing until 2001 — minors had three years to report such crimes. The law was later amended to allow such victims until their 30th birthday to report it, while last year’s changes eliminated the statute of limitations altogether for serious sexual abuse crimes against minors.
But Ben Santos, chair of the King County Prosecutor’s Special Assault Unit, confirmed to The Times in an email the legislation “does not resurrect matters that expired before the new law being enacted.” He said the crimes of third-degree rape and third-degree sexual misconduct applicable in Carnell’s case needed to be reported within three years.
That also appears to rule out criminal action by other former players who might come forward against Koslosky. He’d begun coaching in the 1970s — starting with a local youth squad featuring future national women’s team icon Michelle Akers from age 9-11 — and headed up other teams before finishing with the Mountlake Terrace-based Stellarz from 1995-2002.
Sarah Junkin-Clark, 52, who is not a part of Carnell’s lawsuit, told The Seattle Times she played for a Koslosky team called the Strikers in 1979-80 at age 11 and that he put his hands on her bare leg, thigh and chest multiple times while driving her to and from extra soccer tutoring.
Other former players and parents said Koslosky left at least three teams abruptly under unexplained circumstances in the 1980s and 1990s before joining the Stellarz. Players say Koslosky, who coached girls ranging from ages 9-18, gave them gifts of trinkets, talked about their dating habits and his virginity, and phoned them late at night.
Carnell played for Koslosky until leaving for college at 18 and later became general manager of the Sounders Women and Seattle Reign. Her lawsuit against Koslosky states he groomed her starting at age 13 and was sexually touching her by ages 15 and 16 until she stopped it. The lawsuit also names Washington Youth Soccer (WYS) and Sound FC (the current incarnation of the former Northwest Nationals program) as co-defendants for failing to protect her.
Koslosky admitted in a court response to the lawsuit and a written statement to The Seattle Times he “fell in love” with Carnell and had an “inappropriate relationship” with her that included undefined sexual contact shortly after she had turned 16, the state’s legal age of consent. He denies sexually touching Carnell at 15 or similar relations with other players.
A coach engaging in consensual sexual contact with an athlete of 16 or 17 and at least five years younger can be charged with sexual misconduct. But with anyone younger than 16, it becomes a more serious charge of rape or molestation.
Carnell had not planned on criminal charges until receiving a call last Tuesday — the day The Times story appeared — from Mountlake Terrace Police suggesting she file a report. Det. Mike Haynes, the department’s operations commander, confirmed somebody alerted them earlier that day to Carnell’s lawsuit allegations against Koslosky and another detective had phoned Carnell to suggest making a criminal complaint and seeing what prosecutors would do with it.
Haynes said he believed Carnell could be within the revised law’s time frame to seek charges. But he admitted he wasn’t well-versed on whether it could be applied retroactively.
Mary Ellen Stone, executive director of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, who’d helped push for changes to the law, agreed the limits on reporting sexual abuse remain confusing. “Part of what we fought hard for was to get that law simplified, because it’s ridiculously complicated,” she said.
But she’s glad more recent victims will at least gain time to report abuse, given it is difficult for child victims until they’re much older. “Child victims are reluctant, afraid, and they don’t know how to tell what’s happened to them,” Stone said.
She added that the strong relationship between victim and offender — such as a coach and young athlete — makes children reluctant to come forward.
Seattle lawyer Ashton Dennis, a partner at Washington Law Center, said a “significant portion” of his firm’s cases are child sexual-abuse lawsuits and that clients often start out wanting criminal charges. “I’m able to get them a level of compensation, but there are just a level of unresolved issues as far as justice is concerned.”
Dennis said limitations on civil cases are interpreted more broadly by this state’s courts. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse have until three years after their 18th birthday, or three years after remembering their abuse, to file lawsuits. But Dennis said courts have also interpreted state law to allow lawsuits brought by survivors within three years of linking adulthood trauma to abuse they’d previously remembered for decades.
Carnell said she’d only linked her ongoing adulthood depression to her time with Koslosky while watching a movie about childhood sexual abuse in April 2019.
With criminal charges now impossible, she’ll focus exclusively on that civil case in hopes of Washington Youth Soccer improving its safeguards for young athletes so experiences like hers don’t happen again.
“Right now, the lawsuit is the only option I’m left with,” Carnell said.