Former San Jose State University trainer Scott Shaw was sentenced Tuesday to serve 24 months in prison for unlawfully touching female student-athletes under the guise of providing medical treatment.
The sentence was handed down by the U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman in San Jose federal court.
“Today’s sentence sends a clear message that public school officials who exploit their positions of authority to sexually abuse and harass students will face serious consequences for their actions,” said Asst. Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will not tolerate violations of civil rights committed under the guise of legitimate medical treatment by those in positions of power and trust.”
Shaw, former director of sports medicine at San Jose State, pleaded guilty to the charges in August. As part of the plea agreement, Shaw admitted that, between 2017 and 2020, he violated the civil rights of four students who played on women’s athletics teams by touching their breasts and buttocks without their consent and without a legitimate medical purpose.
“Scott Shaw was entrusted to care for athletes in the California State University system. Instead, he used his power over female athletes to violate their civil rights by sexually groping them without their consent and without any medical justification,” said Asst. U.S. Attorney Patrick Robbins. “Such criminal assaults on college athletes will be investigated and prosecuted; anyone abusing their power over student athletes in this way should expect to spend time in prison for doing so.”
“A patient necessarily places enormous trust in a healthcare provider; that relationship is privileged and inviolable for good reason,” said FBI Special Agent In Charge Robert Tripp. “Shaw’s violation of that relationship is reprehensible, as was reflected in his sentence. I commend the student athletes for their moral courage in coming forward to challenge Shaw. Their bravery prevented Shaw from committing further harm to others, and civil rights violations will continue to be a top priority for the FBI.”
According to court documents, from 2008 until August 2020, Shaw served as the Director of Sports Medicine and head athletic trainer at the university. His duties included treating injuries sustained by Spartan student athletes.
Shaw admitted that he engaged in all the conduct described above at the San Jose State campus in his capacity as an athletic trainer. He admitted that female student athletes allowed him to have physical contact with them only because of his status as an athletic trainer.
Shaw further acknowledged that female student-athletes sought treatment from him because they were in pain, seeking relief and wanted to continue participating in Spartan sports.
“The student-athletes trusted him because he was an experienced athletic trainer,” according to a prosecutors’ statement. “Shaw also admitted that he inappropriately touched each of the student-athletes as described above without any legitimate diagnostic or treatment purpose and without seeking or securing their consent in advance. Shaw further admitted that his conduct was not the result of mistake, carelessness, or accident.”
This case was investigated by the FBI.
Shaw pleaded guilty to two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law. In addition to the prison term, Freeman ordered Shaw to serve one year of supervised release, to begin after he has served his prison term, and to pay a $15,000 fine.
Freeman scheduled a hearing in February to rule on restitution. Shaw is to surrender on or before March 6, 2024, to begin serving his prison term.