Ex-track coach Conrad Mainwaring gets up to 11 years in prison for serial sex abuse

February 8, 2024, 10:49 PM

PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- Conrad Avondale Mainwaring, a former Olympian and track coach who sexually abused more than 50 boys and young men since the mid-1970s, was sentenced to up to 11 years in state prison after pleading guilty Thursday.

Just 16 miles from a summer camp where he abused nine boys in the 1970s, Mainwaring, 72, pleaded guilty to 14 counts of indecent assault and battery of boys, two of whom were younger than 14.

Mainwaring, who competed in track and field at the 1976 Olympics for Antigua (now Antigua-Barbuda) and later became a camp counselor and track coach, will receive credit for the three years he has spent awaiting trial.

Upon his release, Mainwaring will be on probation for three years and required to register as a sex offender in Massachusetts. He also will be barred from contact with minors in the state or with any of his victims.

The case against Mainwaring was launched after a two-year ESPN investigation found 52 men who said they were sexually abused as boys or young men by Mainwaring beginning in the 1970s and through 2016. Nine of those men had attended Camp Greylock in Becket, Massachusetts, where they described how Mainwaring wowed them with his Olympic credentials and lured them to join his select "squad."

Mainwaring then initiated sexual contact under the guise of mental training, insisting they needed to control and manipulate erections and testosterone levels to maximize their athletic performance.

At the plea hearing Thursday in Berkshire County Superior Court, the victims were provided the opportunity to present statements to the court, either in person or via Zoom. A television was set up 14 feet in front of Mainwaring, who showed no reaction as one victim, David Sweet, addressed him in court and four others spoke via Zoom.

A camera was directed at Mainwaring so the victims could see him as they spoke.

Also watching via Zoom were families of the victims and dozens of other men who say they were abused by Mainwaring elsewhere over the past 50 years. 

Sweet remained composed while standing about 15 feet from Mainwaring, who was rolled into court in a wheelchair. He was wearing his orange jail jumpsuit and a blue surgical mask that covered a graying beard. 

Sweet, now 60 and retired from a career in child protective services, said he was only 13 when Mainwaring began to groom and later sexually abuse him at Camp Greylock.

"He gave me a nickname. He called me 'Face,' because I had a handsome face, I guess," Sweet said, turning to Mainwaring. "Do you remember that, Conrad? I hope you remember this face for a long, long time."

Like several other victims, Sweet recounted how their former coach lured them with promises that he could turn them into elite athletes.

"Sadly, Conrad Mainwaring derailed that dream for many of us," Sweet said.

John Shapiro, appearing via Zoom from California, described how he had attended Camp Greylock for several years and said Mainwaring "started grooming and manipulating me when I was 11."

Shapiro told the court that Mainwaring's abuse had continued for another 12 years, including while he attended college at Syracuse University. A support group has developed among men who were abused by Mainwaring, and Shapiro said he's now aware of "well over 400 victims."

"The trauma that we've all experienced has caused an array of horrific problems that us victims still suffer from: suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, an array of addiction problems, anger issues, trust and intimacy issues," Shapiro said.

He described how family members also have suffered as a result of Mainwaring's actions, saying, "It's beyond diabolical, the pain and suffering of so many."

He closed by urging the judge and future parole board members to put Mainwaring "behind bars for as long as possible. Not only for justice, but for prevention."

Michael Waxman, a 60-year-old trial attorney in Maine, described how he was molested when he was 13 at Camp Greylock. Waxman said he was excited to be taken under the wing of a former Olympian. 

"I was overjoyed that you chose me," Waxman told Mainwaring in his statement, "and I would have followed you to the ends of the earth to make this dream come true. But what you did to me had nothing to do with my dream; it was all about satisfying your perverted sexual needs."

Waxman said he's doing well now but added, "you stole part of my childhood, part of my innocence ... and you made me think badly about myself."

Other victims who spoke included Tym De Santo and Greg Allen, both of whom also were abused at Camp Greylock.

"Conrad, you are seated before us a disappointment to mankind, and one who lives a life of quiet desperation," Allen said.

Said De Santo, "I'm extremely grateful for this court's ability to deny Conrad Mainwaring the opportunity to perpetrate physical or emotional abuse of any kind on anyone, ever again."

Throughout the proceeding, Mainwaring hardly flinched, and said little. He answered "yes" when the judge asked him if the charges against him were accurate, and he uttered a barely audible "guilty" as each count was read to him. He never addressed his victims.

Berkshire County District Attorney Timothy Shugrue called the victims heroes for speaking out. 

"Secrecy is what enables these people," Shugrue said after the hearing. "No secrets today."

Although the statute of limitations on the Camp Greylock abuse expired decades ago, prosecutors were able to bring charges because the statute froze -- or "tolled" -- when Mainwaring left Massachusetts for good in the late 1970s. Tolling is designed to prevent somebody from committing a crime in one state, moving away until the statute of limitations expires, and then returning without fear of prosecution. In this case, there's no record that Mainwaring continued to live in Massachusetts or returned after he stopped working at Camp Greylock.

In June 2018, ESPN began investigating a tip that Mainwaring had molested a 12-year-old boy in the 1970s at Camp Greylock and might have continued such activity into the 2010s while working as a private track coach in Los Angeles. The tip led to a reporting effort that uncovered 52 victims across two continents and four states, from Massachusetts to Southern California.

During ESPN's reporting, Los Angeles detective Sharlene Johnson began investigating an allegation that Mainwaring had molested a man when he was a 20-year-old college student training under Mainwaring in 2016. The LAPD case resulted in Mainwaring being charged there on one count of sexual battery by fraud.

As that case slowly worked its way through the courts, ESPN in 2019 published the results of its investigation, which included details about the alleged abuse at Camp Greylock. That prompted Massachusetts State Police detective Steve Jones to explore whether a case could be made in Massachusetts. Jones began interviewing potential victims and, after leaving his position, handed the case over to fellow detective Ryan Dickinson.

In January 2021, a Berkshire County grand jury indicted Mainwaring on a dozen counts of indecent assault and battery, including three counts involving acts with boys under the age of 14. One month later, after Mainwaring pleaded no contest and was given probation on the L.A. charge, he walked out of a Los Angeles County courthouse -- and promptly was arrested.

Both Dickinson and Jones were in court Wednesday to watch Mainwaring plead guilty.

Mainwaring's abuse also prompted a civil lawsuit that names Syracuse University and Camp Greylock as defendants. The case was filed in 2020 by Shapiro and another man, Robert Druger, both of whom said they were abused by Mainwaring while he was a Syracuse graduate student and worked at the school as a housing supervisor. Since then, several other men, including Sweet and De Santo, have joined the lawsuit over abuse at Syracuse and/or Greylock. 

ESPN found 22 men who described being abused by Mainwaring when he was at Syracuse. The lawsuit alleges, without any details, that Syracuse had received "credible reports of sexual abuse perpetrated by Mainwaring" but didn't act on them. The lawsuit also alleges the university failed to properly vet Mainwaring at the time he was hired and allowed him to have "unfettered and unsupervised" access to boys and young men in a dorm where he worked as a supervisor. In court Thursday, Sweet said he had reported Mainwaring to a Syracuse track coach, to no avail.

Syracuse has said it was unaware of any allegations against Mainwaring until after ESPN published its report. In a statement responding to questions about the lawsuit at the time it was filed, the school said that "based on that exhaustive review, we have been unable to locate or identify any individual who reported the alleged conduct to university officials when it occurred."