Former coach’s civil case allowed
Judge won’t delay suit against Blazier while criminal sex assault charges are pending
HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Blair County judge has declined to put a civil lawsuit on hold pending resolution of criminal charges against a former wrestling coach in the Bellwood-Antis School District.
Judge Timothy M. Sullivan, in a ruling signed Tuesday, denied the school district’s request for the hold after a review of legal arguments that were aired during a May 4 hearing.
Sullivan’s ruling means the civil case, initiated by an alleged sexual assault victim and his father, can continue to proceed while criminal charges are pending against former wrestling coach Ryan L. Blazier.
State police of Hollidaysburg charged Blazier in February 2020 with sexual assault offenses based on his alleged activity — in 2019 and early 2020 — on school grounds involving two boys.
While Blazier has not been convicted of those charges, pretrial motions are pending that could put the criminal case in a position to go to trial in August.
During the May 4 hearing before Sullivan, attorneys for the school district argued that because civil and criminal court cases developed from the same allegations, the civil matters should be put on hold pending resolution of the criminal charges.
Attorneys representing the alleged victim and his father, however, pointed out that their case also alleges “institutional breakdowns” in the nature of inadequate monitoring and supervision, lack of proper reporting, negligent hiring and allowing a coach to have inappropriate one-on-one interaction with a student.
Sullivan recognized that argument as one of the reasons against putting the civil court case on hold.
The judge also declined to recognize the school district’s concern linked to its personnel participating in civil court proceedings while criminal charges are pending. The district suggested that Blazier’s participation puts him at risk of self-incrimination and its personnel could be at similar risk.
Sullivan countered that Blazier is represented by a criminal defense attorney who can advise him on how to preserve and protect his constitutional rights.
As for the district and its personnel, the judge described self-incrimination concerns as speculative and pointed out that to date, neither the district, as an entity, or its personnel, are criminally charged.
The judge also rejected the idea of putting the civil case on hold by pointing to the amount of time that might be involved while waiting for the criminal case to be addressed.
“Even though defendant Blazier’s criminal case is currently scheduled (for trial in August), there remains the possibility … that the case may be continued for any number of reasons,” Sullivan said. “Whether there is a lengthy delay remains to be seen. We certainly recognize, however, that there exists the real possibility of an indefinite delay.”
The judge also mentioned that if Blazier’s criminal cases were to proceed to jury trial and generate convictions, additional delays could follow through appellate reviews.
“The plaintiffs have initiated this civil action, and we believe that they are entitled to further pursuit of this case at this time,” the judge concluded.