A suburban Chicago gymnastics coach has been charged with allegedly sexually abusing two female athletes with cognitive disabilities.
Patricia Hermann, 48, of Schaumburg, was charged with three counts of sexual battery against a minor and one count of aggravated sexual battery, according to Sgt. Dana Pierce with the Cobb County Police Department in Georgia.
Police said they were alerted to a report of physical and sexual abuse that occurred between April 30 and May 3 at the Springhill Suites by Marriott in Kennesaw, Georgia.
The Elite Stars athletes had traveled from Schaumburg to Georgia to participate in a gymnastics competition and stayed at the hotel. After returning home, two female athletes with cognitive disabilities separately told their parents that the head coach of the Elite Stars physically and sexually abused them in their hotel room on the trip, police said.
The director for the 2015 USA Gymnastics Special Olympics Championships confirmed Hermann and the Elite Stars participated in the competition on May 2.
Hermann was arrested Saturday on an arrest warrant from Cobb County officials and taken into custody at the Cook County Sheriff’s office, a spokesperson for the department confirmed.
Hermann’s next door neighbor, Anna Mieczkowski, said the gymnastics coach helped her care for her youngest daughter with Down Syndrome. Mieczkowski said her daughter, who is almost 5, was born right after she moved into her house and Hermann taught her how to swim.
Mieczkowski doesn’t believe the accusations against her neighbor.
“For Christmas, birthdays, she always remember, always,” Mieczkowski said. “I can't believe it, I can't believe it. I am 100 percent behind her back and I don't believe all this stuff.
According to the Elite Stars website, Hermann has worked in special needs program design and gymnastics coaching for more than 25 years. Her bio indicates she represents the U.S. on the Special Olympics International Gymnastics Committee.
Special Olympics Illinois released a statement saying it conducts background checks on all volunteers who register to coach and that a search into Hermann revealed no prior criminal history.
"Because the names of the alleged victims have not been released, we cannot verify if those involved are associated with Special Olympics," the statement added. "However, we are prepared to cooperate with law enforcement, if needed, as they investigate this matter. Special Olympics Illinois has nonetheless suspended Ms. Hermann’s from all coaching and volunteer activities.”
Hermann's attorney Steven Glick also released a statement: "Patricia Hermann dedicated her life to working with kids with disabilities. She treats them as real athletes, not as kids with disabilities and has done this for more than 20 years. She has an impeccable reputation, and I don't believe she's guilty."
Glick is representing Hermann in her case with the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services related to the incident. He will not represent her on the Georgia charges because he is not licensed to practice law in the state.