Another defendant named in one of the federal lawsuits filed in connection with the Cheer Incorporated sex abuse scandal has been arrested. According to jail records, 23-year-old Dominick “Nick” Frizzell was arrested on May 20, 2023 in Knox County, Tennessee and charged with solicitation of a minor, sexual activity involving a minor, aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and statutory rape.
His bond was set at $100,000.
Frizzell was named in a civil lawsuit filed last September in U.S. District Court in Memphis, Tennessee. He previously coached at Premier Athletics, a Knoxville, Tennessee-based company which teaches gymnastics, cheerleading and tumbling to children. Premier Athletics has facilities in Tennessee, Kentucky and Michigan, according to its website.
The civil lawsuit was filed by attorneys with the Columbia, S.C.-based Strom Law firm and their co-counsel, Tennessee state representative John Ray Clemmons. According to the pleading, Premier Athletics – through its manager Susan Traylor – “allowed a coach and athlete to emotionally, physically, and sexually exploit and abuse Premier’s young athletes.”
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Both Traylor and Frizzell were named as defendants in that case. According to the pleading, in May or June of 2022, Traylor received reports that Frizzell had “engaged in sexual misconduct with some of (Premier’s) minor athletes.” Shortly thereafter, one of these minor athletes “directly reported” multiple alleged sexual solicitation attempts by Frizzell to the U.S. All-Star Federation (USASF) and to local law enforcement, specifically the office of Knox County sheriff Tom Spangler.
According to the lawsuit, Frizzell “sent nude photographs of himself, as well as videos of (himself) masturbating.” Some of the materials have been provided to this news outlet in support of the allegations contained in the pleading.
Despite those reports, Frizzell was “allowed to continue accessing Premier Athletics’ gym,” the lawsuit noted.
The lawsuit also made another disturbing allegation. Despite the severity of the claims, it purportedly took USASF “months” to notify Mary Doe of the abuse allegedly perpetrated against her then-14-year-old son.
“Months after first becoming aware of potential abuse against one of its minor athletes, USASF finally contacted Mary Doe,” the lawsuit alleged. As for Premier Athletics, the gym “never contacted” Mary Doe on behalf of her minor child, according to the suit.
“People need to understand how bad it was and how dangerous it is that Premier covered it all up,” Mary Doe said.
At the time the lawsuit was filed, Frizzell was a cheerleader for the University of Tennessee (UT). The school announced his suspension on September 27, 2022. Mary Doe blasted UT and its cheer program for alleged being complicit in the scandal – citing a link between the program and Premier.
“It’s just completely maddening to me because one of the directors at Premier is the head coach for University of Tennessee cheer,” she said.
That is a reference to Chelsea Bowlin, the head cheer coach at UT.
“Nick had still been going into Premier and practicing as a University of Tennessee cheerleader,” Mary Doe continued. “He is representing the University of Tennessee out, you know, in a huge venue and cheering and they did not even bench him. He still hadn’t been kicked off the team. They didn’t even bench him until they knew that we were raising hell.”
When asked for comment about Frizzell’s arrest, Strom Law attorney Alexandra “Ally” Benevento said her firm’s “primary focus is on our clients.”
“While neither the civil nor the criminal process can ever truly remedy the unimaginable and irreparable harm these athletes have suffered, the criminal charges are a step towards accountability and safety in All-Star cheer,” Benevento said. “We remain steadfast in our dedication to these athletes and others like them who have been violated in the most horrific ways. It is our sincere hope that as more and more abusers are held accountable through the criminal justice process, survivors who may have been hesitant to tell their stories or report their abuse will continue to come forward and heal.”
The criminal charges filed against Frizzell come on the heels of charges being filed against another defendant named in separate ‘Cheer Incorporated’ lawsuit filed in Florida. As we reported earlier this month, 44-year-old Erick Kristianson of Antioch, Tennessee is facing fresh felony charges accusing him of molesting six girls – including victims as young as eleven. These alleged sexual assaults occurred while Kristianson was coaching at a competitive cheer club and a California high school.
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.
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These 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, 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.
“We will continue to fight for our clients around the country both civilly and criminally,” Strom Law attorney Bakari Sellers said. “As arrests continue to happen, we will continue to fight for systemic change within the world of cheer.”
The Cheer Incorporated scandal escalated earlier this year after 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 Frizzell 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 – the opportunity to share their views with our audience.
And as for Frizzell, like anyone accused of committing any crime, he is considered innocent until proven guilty by our criminal justice system – or until such time as he may wish to enter some form of allocution in connection with a plea agreement with prosecutors related to any of the charges that may be filed against him.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Jenn Wood is FITSNews’ incomparable research director. She’s also the producer of the FITSFiles and Cheer Incorporated podcasts and leading expert on all things Murdaugh/ South Carolina justice. A former private investigator with a criminal justice degree, evildoers beware, Jenn Wood is far from your average journalist! A deep dive researcher with a passion for truth and a heart for victims, this mom of two is pretty much a superhero in FITSNews country. Did we mention she’s married to a rocket scientist? (Lucky guy!) Got a story idea or a tip for Jenn? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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