An All-Star cheer coach who is the focus of a recently filed federal lawsuit in Florida faces fresh felony charges accusing him of molesting six girls – including victims as young as eleven years old. These alleged sexual assaults occurred as the accused – 44-year-old Erick Kristianson of Antioch, Tennessee – was coaching at a competitive cheer club and a California high school.
Kristianson was already facing charges of child molestation and child exhibition in Daytona Beach, Florida relating to four young competitive cheer athletes he coached at a since-shuttered gym called Champion Elite Legacy.
He was arrested last week in Fargo, North Dakota on a warrant and extradited to California. He is currently being held without bail at the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange County.
According to officials from the Orange County district attorney’s office, Kristianson worked as a competitive cheerleading coach at Magic All-Stars from 2002 to 2008 and as an assistant cheer coach at Trabuco Hills High School in 2005. It was during this timeframe they allege he gained access to the underage girls he is accused of assaulting.
The latest allegations against Kristianson – a.k.a. “Creepy Erick” – came to light after he was previously arrested in Strong City, Kansas on August 4, 2022 on a Florida warrant for three felony counts of lewd and lascivious conduct. According to a police report obtained by reporter Anika Hope of WESH TV-2 (NBC – Daytona Beach), three girls “under 16 years old” recorded a FaceTime call with Kristianson in early July during which he exposed himself to them “while he touched himself.” After his August 2022 arrest, Kristianson posted a $300,000 bond and was released without any restrictions on leaving the state.
After seeing news reports regarding Kristianson’s arrest, a young woman contacted Orange County authorities to report that she was allegedly molested by Kristianson beginning when she was fourteen. Kristianson is accused of picking up the girl from school – or taking her home from cheer practice – and engaging in sexual activity with her until she turned 16. Kristianson is further accused of molesting five other Orange County girls he coached between 2002 and 2007 – routinely taking some of the girls to off-campus events and to his home where he would molest them, according to police.
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The Florida allegations led to a lawsuit being filed in U.S. district court in Orlando on November 17, 2022 by attorneys with the Columbia, South Carolina-based Strom Law firm as well as attorneys with the Boca Raton, Florida-based Osborne & Francis law firm. These lawsuits were filed on behalf of three anonymous Jane Does and listed Kristianson among their defendants as well as the Champion Elite Legacy gym and its former owner, Ashley Hughes.
The latest charges filed against Kristianson include seven felony counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a minor under 14, five felony counts of lewd acts upon a child age 14 or 15, two felony counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object of a minor under 18, one felony count of sexual penetration by a foreign object of a minor under 16, and one felony count of oral copulation of a person under 16 years old.
If convicted on all counts, he could be imprisoned for the rest of his natural life.
“Pedophiles will never stop stalking and grooming their prey unless they are stopped,” Orange County district attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement. “This was not a predator hiding in the shadows waiting to grab innocent girls. He was hiding in plain sight as he assaulted girl after girl, thinking he would never be caught because they trusted him as a coach. Thankfully, he is in custody and the Orange County district attorney’s office will do everything it can to ensure he is held accountable for assaulting these young girls who thought they could trust him.”
Spitzer said authorities believe there may be additional victims of Erick Kristianson. They’ve asked anyone with information about additional potential victims to call Orange County sheriff’s department investigator Austin Jones at 714-647-4016.
The competitive cheer world has been rocked by a number of lawsuits and allegations of sexual abuse over the past year. This flood of lawsuits began nine months ago with the spectacular implosion of Greenville, S.C.-based Rockstar Cheer. Rockstar became the epicenter of the Cheer Incorporated scandal on August 22, 2022 when its late owner and founder, Scott Foster, died by suicide. The day after Foster’s death hit the news, FITSNews reported the 49-year-old coach was staring down “a multi-jurisdictional investigation into (among other things) allegations of sexual misconduct with underage girls.”
We quickly learned it wasn’t just girls. And it wasn’t just Foster. Most importantly … it wasn’t just Rockstar.
As of this writing, twelve lawsuits have been filed in seven states on behalf of twenty-one survivors tied to these allegations. These suits have named a combined forty-one defendants – with each suit including the same core group of institutional defendants.
The lawsuits allege a “civil conspiracy” on the part of these defendants tied to the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. In other words, these attorneys believe they can prove the existence of a “criminal enterprise” in which defendants collaboratively engaged in “a pattern of racketeering activity.”
At the heart of this alleged conspiracy? Failed oversight on the part of individual gym owners – but also on the part of the regulatory agencies charged with holding them accountable. Those agencies are effectively controlled by Tennessee-based Varsity – the behemoth of the American cheerleading industry – which along with its founder, Jeff Webb, is another co-defendant in the lawsuits. The filings also name two companies which purchased ownership interests in Varsity within the last decade – Charlesbank Capital Partners and Bain Capital.
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The Cheer Incorporated scandal escalated earlier this year when a lawsuit was filed in U.S. district court in Texas against Navarro College‘s cheer team and its legendary coach, Monica Aldama. Both Navarro and Aldama were featured in the hit documentary series ‘Cheer,’ which premiered on Netflix in 2020 and has run for two seasons.
The claims made in the Texas lawsuit were not the first time Navarro College has found itself in the spotlight regarding allegations of sexual abuse. In September 2020, former Navarro cheer athlete Jerry Harris was arrested on a child pornography charge – and in December 2020 he was indicted for soliciting sex and explicit photos from minors at cheerleading competitions.
Harris pleaded guilty and was sentenced to twelve years in prison.
The failure of many in the national media to cover the Cheer Incorporated scandal has frustrated parents, but the high profile defendants named in the Navarro lawsuit attracted significant attention to the case.
Count on FITSNews to keep our readers informed of the latest developments in the Navarro story, the Kristianson case – and all of the narratives we are tracking related to the ongoing cheerleading sexual abuse lawsuits. Also, please remember we have an open microphone policy which affords these named defendants – and anyone with an intelligent perspective on these matters – with an opportunity to share their views with our audience.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Jenn Wood is the director of research at FITSNews. She is also a producer on our Cheer Incorporated podcast and our resident expert on the ‘Murdaugh Murders‘ crime and corruption saga. Wood is a wife and mother of two residing in Louisiana, but she will be in the Palmetto State for the duration of the upcoming double homicide trial. Got a story idea or a tip for Jenn? Email her at [email protected].
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