As the basketball season ramps up this week at Federal Way High School and the program scrambles in the wake of the head coach’s administrative leave over an alleged voyeurism scandal, a second woman is speaking out against a former basketball player who she claims filmed her during a sexual encounter.
The suspect allegedly filmed former student Gwen Gabert while she performed a sex act with him, and on a separate occasion he hid in a closet and filmed another former student, Tally Thomas, during her sexual encounter with another basketball player, the women claim.
Federal Way detectives, who filed the case with the King County Prosecutor’s Office on Nov. 9, are recommending that prosecutors charge the suspect with two counts of voyeurism.
“I would never have been able to share my story if you didn’t share your story,” Gabert told Thomas before hugging her during a dual interview with the Federal Way Mirror at their attorney Joan Mell’s law office in Fircrest. “The second I found out I was like, ‘Tally, I support you.’ I am so glad you said something.”
Thomas came forward when she filed a tort claim against Federal Way Public Schools in October for $3.5 million. She claimed the suspect videotaped her against her will, and also alleged that the school’s head basketball coach, Jerome Collins, was aware of this incident, had watched the video in question and failed to report the situation to authorities. The school district subsequently placed Collins on paid administrative leave.
Gabert, now 20 years old, recounted the incident and how it has impacted her life. On the day of her 18th birthday on Jan. 26, 2016, she had a sexual encounter with the suspect after school in a car. Then she went to the school’s senior night where she met up with him.
“And I bought him a Gatorade, and a balloon and a piece of candy and was like … I like him and I’m going to support him and be nice to him,” Gabert recalled, noting that by that point the suspect had “probably sent [the video] to all of his friends, all of the basketball players … and I was just this joke on the sidelines, like everyone thought I was just this whore and I was trying to be supportive and nice and that just speaks to my character …”
She found out about the alleged video approximately two weeks later, around the same time when Thomas discovered a similar incident had allegedly happened to her. “So two weeks later would’ve been when you were finding out, which is crazy,” Gabert said to Thomas. “Maybe [the videos] got sent around at the same time.”
A male student had notified Gabert that there was a video of her circulating via a group chat. “I just kept getting messages from guys about a video,” Gabert recalled.
She said she “had no idea” the suspect allegedly recorded their encounter. “I trusted him, which was so stupid of me,” she said as she cried and apologized for the many sensitive details she relayed. She added she was unaware that the suspect was allegedly filming her.
She didn’t report the incident to police until a month later because she was “trying to forgive him and I didn’t want to ruin his life. I didn’t want to ruin his potential. I didn’t want to do something that would hurt his life.”
Thomas, now age 19, was 17 when the alleged voyeurism incident happened to her, but she couldn’t recall the exact date it happened. She found out about it on her 18th birthday, Feb. 13, 2016—the week before the basketball state championships. She said guys at school were “saying stuff” about the video so she told her dad, who had a meeting with the two boys and coach Collins. The following day she had a meeting with the boys and Collins.
“So what happened in my meeting with the coach was he tried to tell me that he was going to have the two boys just not play at state,” Thomas recalled. “And I was like please, in God’s name do not do that because if they don’t win the state championship when they’re supposed to, everybody at school is going to blame me. So let’s not do that.”
She said it felt “very much so” like the coach guilted her into acquiescing.
“In the meeting [the suspect] the entire time was kind of laughing about it. And it made me really, really upset and uncomfortable,” Thomas noted. “The other boy was crying and apologizing and felt awful about it, so that was pretty normal. But [the suspect] was just kind of smirking.” She said coach Collins seemed “more like, ‘let’s try to figure this out and get this out of the way so that we don’t have to deal with it anymore.’” Thomas added that some of the other basketball coaches “definitely knew” about the video, as “other boys on the team let me know.”
Collins told the Mirror that he would “love to comment, but [since] this is an ongoing investigation, I’m advised not to make any comments at this time.”
Read more of this story at seattleweekly.com.