Ohio State University found conflicting accounts regarding the relationship between a former Diving Club coach and a 17-year-old team member in an internal investigation of sexual harassment allegations.
According to a report filed on Aug. 29, 2014, despite uncertainty over whether sexual harassment claims were valid, it concluded the two were involved in a consensual romantic relationship. The report said any relationship between the two was a violation of university policy.
The findings led to the termination of the now-former coach, William Bohonyi, who admitted to investigators his relationship with the diver “crossed the lines of the coach/athlete relationship,” the report said.
The Lantern obtained a copy of the report following a July 11 lawsuit that names Bohonyi, Ohio State University Diving Club and USA Diving, Inc. as defendants. The suit claims Bohonyi sexually abused divers while at Ohio State and at USA Diving, including a minor. The lawsuit claims Ohio State did little to prevent Bohonyi from abusing divers even after he was fired from the university.
According to the investigative report, Ohio State had first been told on Aug. 10, 2014, that there might be a “consensual/sexual relationship” between Bohonyi and the diver. The diver is named only as “the complainant” in the report.
A call made to Bohonyi went unanswered and a message seeking comment was not returned.
In a statement made to The Lantern on Tuesday, Ohio State spokesman Ben Johnson said the university cannot comment on any specific details of the lawsuit. He said Bohonyi was placed on administrative leave on Aug. 10, 2014, when the investigation was opened up.
In the report, the diver said Bohonyi had been “flirtatious” with her, but the relationship between the two did not turn sexual until July 2014. She said in the report on July 7, 2014, the pair engaged in oral sex in Bohonyi’s car in the Neil Avenue parking garage on Ohio State’s campus.
She later told investigators she and Bohonyi had consensual sex in Bohonyi’s hotel room in Bethesda, Maryland, on July 17, 2014, during the Ohio State Diving Club National’s Meet, the report read.
As evidence, she told investigators in the report she sent Bohonyi a text implying the pair had sex. Bohonyi confirmed to Ohio State he received the text, but claimed it was a joke.
Once Ohio State Diving Club head coach John Appleman learned of the relationship between the two, Bohonyi told the diver the relationship needed to end and convinced her to alter her story to prevent the two from getting in trouble, the diver said in the report. She turned over Snapchat messages to investigators as evidence of the alleged conversation.
Bohonyi denied all allegations of physical contact between himself and the diver, though he did tell investigators the relationship between the two became more flirtatious and that he jokingly referred to the 17-year-old as his “wife,” the report stated.
It went on to say he told investigators his relationship with the diver “filled the void of girlfriend,” but denied they were ever in a romantic relationship.
While Bohonyi told Ohio State nothing happened in his car or hotel room as the diver claimed, he admitted the two met up at those places, but only talked.
In the investigation, Ohio State interviewed assistant directors of recreational sports Christine Thompson and Zach Skinner, as well as Appleman, Bohonyi and the diver. Thompson, Skinner and Appleman all said in the report they first became aware of the relationship between the two on Aug. 10, 2014, and that each one talked with both the diver and Bohonyi. In all three instances, Bohonyi denied any physical contact or romantic relationship with the diver.
Appleman told investigators he met with the diver and her mother, during which meeting the diver explained how she and Bohonyi had sexual intercourse and engaged in oral sex.
Appleman added his own perspective to the report, saying that he has heard from several sources there have been instances where the diver “was not truthful,” but he had no firsthand reason to doubt her validity. He also said he never witnessed any inappropriate conduct between the two.
Thompson said in the report she met with the diver twice, and that during the first meeting, the diver told Thompson about the events of July 17, 2014. However, in the second meeting, the diver walked back the allegations, telling Thompson, “I lied- I guess and I did not have sex with Will,” according to the report.
After meeting with the diver’s father, Thompson said she believed the diver had been pressured to say that she lied and that “things don’t add up,” the report went on to say.
The report ended by saying that there was not enough evidence to suggest any sexual interactions between the two took place, but that there was reason to believe the two were in a consensual romantic relationship. It also said there was evidence Bohonyi coerced the diver to lie about the relationship and that Bohonyi contradicted himself multiple times, casting doubt on his credibility.
The class-action lawsuit filed said Ohio State “came into possession of hundreds of nude pictures” of a former diver that Bohonyi had allegedly taken or requested from the athlete. It also said Bohonyi forced the athlete into sex while at the university, telling her it was necessary to become an Olympic diver. The lawsuit added Bohonyi continued to “sexually prey” on the diver after he was fired from Ohio State.
It is unclear if the diver in the class-action lawsuit is the same as the one in the investigative report, since the investigative report does not name the alleged victim. However, the report gives no mention of any photographs obtained by Ohio State and did not provide any follow-up on anything happening after Aug. 29, 2014. Johnson told The Lantern on Tuesday in a statement that “Law enforcement has always been in possession of any images that may have existed.”
The Lantern does not name victims of sexual abuse unless given permission by the alleged victim.
*Updated at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 24 to include the statements provided by Ben Johnson.