SJSU settles sex abuse cover-up lawsuit for $560K with fired whistleblower, attorney says

The attorney for a whistleblower in a sex abuse coverup at San Jose State University announced Tuesday that the university had agreed to a $560,000 settlement of a civil lawsuit filed against the school and its former athletic director, Marie Tuite.

The suit alleged that the university fired Steve O'Brien for opposing Tuite's efforts to retaliate against staff members who raised concerns about the athletic program, mostly in regards to an investigation of sex abuse allegations against then-Director of Sports Medicine Scott Shaw, who was accused of sexually fondling more than a dozen female student-athletes.

The investigation resulted last year in a $1.6 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice to victims.

O'Brien had been deputy director of the university's athletic department when he was fired March 3, 2020.

His suit alleged that senior university officials, including Tuite and former president, Mary Papazian, engaged in a pattern of covering up sexual misconduct and retaliating against those who reported it.

In October 2021, Papazian announced her intention to resign Dec. 21 at the end of the fall semester, in the wake of criticism of her handling of the sexual abuse case.

The first sex abuse allegations came in 2009 against Shaw, but the allegations were ignored for many years and Shaw continued to work as an athletic trainer until he resigned in 2020 -- four years into Papazian's tenure and one year after a new investigation was launched.

At the time of Shaw's resignation, Tuite was reassigned to a fundraising role before leaving the school in August.

O'Brien's attorney Tamarah Prevost noted that the settlement comes on the heels of the Department of Justice investigation and findings, "which already fully vindicated our client and validated his claims. We are extremely pleased with this resolution."