French figure skater charged in Florida following sexual abuse allegations – USA TODAY


The Florida state attorney’s office has filed a felony charge against French Olympic figure skater Morgan Cipres for the transmission of material harmful to a minor by electronic device, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest, according to an attorney involved in the case and emails obtained by USA TODAY Sports.

The charge is a third-degree felony and carries up to a five-year prison sentence. Cipres, now 29, trained for several years in Florida, where, on Dec. 3, 2017, he allegedly direct messaged two photos of his penis on Instagram to a 13-year-old American female figure skater who trained at the same rink as Cipres in Wesley Chapel, Florida. USA TODAY Sports has reviewed those messages, which were sent from what appears to be Cipres’ verified account.

Morgan Cipres retired from figure skating in September amid allegations of sexual abuse.

Asked about the felony charge, assistant state attorney Scott Rosenwasser said in an email Monday, “We acknowledge we have the case and have conducted an investigation but at this time cannot make any further comments.”

Andrea Lewis, the attorney for the girl and her family, said Monday night that the charge was “the first step towards justice for the victim and her family. No child should ever have to go through anything like this. By filing felony charges against Morgan Cipres, the State of Florida has sent a clear message to him and other men who prey on children.”

Cipres did not return a message left on his voicemail Tuesday. When asked in a December 2019 phone interview if he sent the photos of himself to the girl, Cipres replied, “I cannot talk with you about anything about that. I mean, I have nothing to say about this allegation.”

Based on his recent Instagram posts, Cipres is now in France.

In addition to an investigation by the Sheriff’s Office in Pasco County, Florida, the Cipres case is also being investigated by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which opened in March 2017 to investigate sexual abuse and misconduct in Olympic sports. Lewis said SafeSport sent documents and photos from the Cipres case to the French Federation of Ice Sports not long before the organization announced the retirement of Cipres and his pairs partner, Vanessa James, on Sept. 29.

Their departure came less than a year and a half before the next scheduled Winter Olympics, the 2022 Beijing Games, where they would have been contenders for an Olympic medal. 

The girl and her parents also said Cipres’ coaches, John Zimmerman, a 2002 Olympian and member of the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame, and Silvia Fontana, a 2002 and 2006 Olympian representing Italy, tried to keep the family from reporting the alleged incident to authorities by shaming and threatening the girl as Cipres, who then was 26, prepared for the 2018 Winter Olympics. 

The skater and her parents said that instead of going to police or SafeSport, Zimmerman and Fontana implored them to stay quiet because Cipres and James were in the final stages of their preparation for the Olympics in South Korea, where they finished fifth.

Zimmerman and Fontana have denied the allegations. The girl and her parents are not being identified because USA TODAY Sports does not publish the names of alleged victims of sexual abuse.

Dara Bushman, a psychologist who worked with the skater, said she “contacted the authorities” after being made aware of the alleged incident in a Dec. 30, 2017 email from the girl’s tutor. “I wanted to make sure the child was safe,” Bushman said.

When the authorities arrived to interview the girl, she refused to tell them what happened, her parents said. Within a few weeks of the alleged incident, the parents said they took their daughter out of the Tampa-area rink and returned to their home in South Florida. She has been in therapy since, they said. The sheriff’s office took no action after the girl declined to cooperate.

But Pasco County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Amanda Hunter told USA TODAY Sports in June that the investigation into the alleged sexual abuse had been reopened: “This is now an ongoing, active investigation.”

Lewis confirmed in June that the girl was “fully cooperating” with the investigation.


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