Richard Curl's mug shot (Montgomery County Police Department)
Rick Curl leaves Montgomery County Circuit Court Feb. 21 (WUSA9)
(WUSA9) -- One of DC's most prominent Olympic swim coaches pleaded guilty Thursday to sexually abusing one of his then-13-year-old swimmers.
Sixty-three-year-old Richard "Rick" Curl of Vienna, Va. pleaded guilty in Montgomery County Circuit Court on Thursday to one count of child sexual abuse in relation to a case from the 1980s, according to the State's Attorney for Montgomery County.
Rick Curl abused Kelly Currin decades ago, but WUSA9's Bruce Leshan reports she felt compelled to go to authorities when she saw a photo of him coaching other young girls.
Rick Curl left the courthouse with sentencing still hanging over him. He will be sentenced on May 23. He faces up to 15 years in prison and will be listed in the sexual offender's registry, according to the state's attorney. He would face far more time if he had abused Currin under new, much tougher child abuse laws.
Prosecutor Debbie Feinstein said about Currin after the plea, "This has had a lifelong impact on her. It doesn't go away."
Currin stood silently next to the prosecutor.
The charge came after one of Rick Curl's best swimmers from nearly a quarter century ago, Kelley Currin, went public with allegations that he sexually abused her over the course of years starting when she was 13 and he was 33. Curl took a sudden leave of absence from the hugely popular Curl-Burke Swim Clubs.
He soon thereafter stepped aside, and the club was sold and renamed the National Capital Swim Club.
Kelly Currin is now in her 40's. She said in July 2012 that Rick Curl started grooming her for sexual abuse when she was just 12 and a half -- and he was in his 30's.
More than two decades ago, the young swimmer agreed to keep quiet about the molestation as part of a $150,000 settlement, but later decided she could no longer remain silent.
"This guy should be in jail and not center stage at the Olympics," Currin told WUSA9's Bruce Leshan by phone from Texas last year.
Currin said Curl performed oral sex on her when she was his 13-year-old swimmer in the Georgetown Prep pool. When she was 14, she said he had had sexual intercourse with her in an office at the school.
"In my 14-year-old mind... I loved him.... He could have told me to do anything, because I trusted him," Currin told Leshan in 2012.
Feinstein said after the plead on Thursday, "When you are 13, 14, 15, you're not in a voluntary relationship with someone who is 20 years your senior, who is your coach. That is not voluntary. That is abuse."
In September 2012, USA Swimming banned Rick Curl for life after learning of the improper relationship. Curl was scheduled for a hearing before the National Board of Review but told the governing body he was waiving his right to challenge the case. He voluntarily gave up his membership and was slated to be added to USA Swimming's list of banned individuals, which is published on the organization website.
Prosecutors declined to say whether there might be other victims, but they urge others victims of child abuse to come forward, no matter how old the allegations. There is no statute of limitations for child abuse in Maryland.
Feinstein said, "It is a victim intense crime that the perpatrator should be held accountable for, regardless of how many years later the victim comes forward."
Currin says she's saved her words for her victim impact statement at Curl's sentencing.