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Gold medalist charged with child sex abuse in Utah

Jimmy Shea smiles on Feb. 21, 2002, after winning the gold medal in skeleton at the Winter Olympics in Park City, Utah. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

SALT LAKE CITY — James “Jimmy” Shea Jr., a former Lake Placid resident who won the gold medal in skeleton at the 2002 Winter Olympics, has been charged with sexual abuse of a child in Utah, authorities said.

Shea, who now lives in Utah, made his first court appearance Monday on one count of aggravated sexual abuse of a child and two counts of sexual battery. The incidents occurred in 2020 in Park City and involved a preteen girl, according to court documents cited by the Deseret News.

According to Utah law, aggravated sexual abuse of a child (under age 14) is a serious felony that carries a sentence of 15 years to life in prison. Sexual battery is a class A misdemeanor.

Shea’s attorney, Rudy Bautista, said Tuesday that the charges are a result of a family dispute and a misunderstanding about what his client contends was loving and affectionate touching.

Shea, 52, plans to plead not guilty to the charges, which he thinks should be dropped, Bautista said.

“Some of the allegations accuse Shea of smacking or hitting the girl’s buttocks, according to charging documents,” the Deseret News reported. “Bautista said nothing his client is accused of doing was done for sexual gratification. In the case of touching her buttocks, he believes it was done more to hurry the girl along, he said. This case should give ‘every parent, guardian, schoolteacher or coach’ concern about having allegations levied against them for innocent touching, Bautista said.”

The Associated Press isn’t identifying the relationship of the alleged victim to Shea to protect the child’s identity. In general, the AP does not identify people who say they are victims of sexual abuse.

The charges were filed last week, and the court has ordered Shea to have no contact with the girl.

Shea won gold in the skeleton competition at the 2002 Salt Lake Games and is a third-generation Olympian. His grandfather Jack Shea won two gold medals in speedskating at the 1932 Winter Olympics in his hometown of Lake Placid.

Skeleton involves athletes racing headfirst down the ice at about 80 mph on a sled.

(Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Jimmy Shea is a Lake Placid native. He was born and raised in Connecticut. The Enterprise regrets the error.)

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