Gregg Berhalter remains a candidate to stay on as U.S. men’s national team coach after a report by a law firm determined he did not improperly withhold information about a 1992 domestic violence allegation involving the woman who later became his wife, the U.S. Soccer Federation said Monday.
The report also concluded that Berhalter’s conduct “likely constituted the misdemeanor crime of assault on a female.”
Berhalter’s contract as coach expired on Dec. 31 and Anthony Hudson, one of his assistants, was appointed interim coach on Jan. 4.
The firm Alston and Bird was retained after former U.S. captain Claudio Reyna and wife Danielle Egan Reyna, the parents of current American midfielder Gio Reyna, went to the USSF with allegations of the 1992 incident following the decision by Berhalter to use Gio Reyna sparingly at last year’s World Cup.
The firm concluded the Reynas were not guilty of extortion but said Claudio Reyna’s conduct might have violated provisions of FIFA’s code of ethics for conflicts of interest, protection of physical and mental integrity, and abuse of position.
Claudio Reyna resigned as technical director of Major League Soccer’s Austin team on Jan. 26.
The report said the probe included interviews with 16 witnesses but Claudio Reyna refused to be interviewed.
It included details on the incident between Berhalter and the then-Rosalind Santana in January 1992 at a bar and nightclub in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where Berhalter and Santana were students and Santana was a roommate of Danielle Egan.
“Mr. and Mrs. Berhalter were both 18 years old and drinking alcohol on the night in question; they began to argue inside the bar; they left the bar together and continued to argue,” the report said. “Once outside, Mrs. Berhalter hit Mr. Berhalter in the face; Mr. Berhalter pushed her to the ground and kicked her twice; Mr. Berhalter was tackled by a passerby, not known to either of the Berhalters; and Mrs. Berhalter got up and left.
“No police report was filed; no complaint or arrest was made; and no medical attention was sought by Mrs. Berhalter.”
The report described the incident as “an isolated event, and we find no evidence to suggest that Mr. Berhalter has engaged in similar misconduct at any other time.”
“Based upon information obtained during the Investigation, we also found nothing to indicate that Mr. Berhalter improperly withheld the fact of the 1992 incident, or any other information, from U.S. Soccer at any time,” the report said. “There is no basis to conclude that employing Mr. Berhalter would create legal risks for an organization.”
The investigators said “Berhalter’s conduct during the 1992 incident likely constituted the misdemeanor crime of assault on a female” but added “Berhalter is not currently at risk of criminal prosecution for the 1992 incident because North Carolina imposes a two-year statute of limitations for misdemeanors.”
The report said the Reyna parents had attempted to influence USSF decisions on their children as far back as 2016, “ranging from travel arrangements to the impact of on-pitch refereeing decisions.”
Former U.S. men’s team general manager Brian McBride gave the investigators a text he received from Claudio Reyna — a former teammate — on Nov. 21 after Gio Reyna wasn’t used in the Americans’ opening 1-1 draw with Wales at the World Cup.
“Our entire family is disgusted, angry, and done with you guys,” the text said. “Don’t expect nice comments from anyone in our family about US Soccer.
“I’m being transparent to you not like the political clown show of the federation.”
Then-USSF sporting director Earnie Stewart told the investigators that after a poor performance by Gio Reyna in a pre-World Cup scrimmage, the 20-year-old “walk(ed) around, and mope(d) around the whole time,” “seemed ticked off” and “did not appear to be trying at all.”
Berhalter nearly sent Gio Reyna home and referred to the matter without naming the player at a leadership conference in New York on Dec. 11.
After the remarks became public and it was clear they referred to Gio Reyna, Claudio and Danielle Reyna called Stewart on Dec. 11 and revealed the allegation of the 1992 incident.
Stewart reported the matter to USSF legal counsel, which launched the probe.
“Some media reports characterized the Reynas’ actions as ‘blackmail,’” the report said. “As a legal matter, we do not arrive at the same conclusion.”
“Blackmail or extortion is the act of obtaining property by compelling or inducing a person to deliver such property by means of instilling in him a fear that, if the property is not so delivered, the actor or another will cause some form of harm to the person,” the report said.
“Based on the facts gathered to date, we do not conclude that the Reynas’ actions rise to the level of or would otherwise result in a conviction for extortion.”
The report said Danielle Reyna initially refused to discuss the matter with investigators during a telephone call on Dec. 29, but she called back shortly later and began by saying: “I did it” and detailed what she told Stewart 18 days earlier.
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