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Wisconsin gymnastics coach charged with secretly recording girls was arrested for child porn in 1999

He's accused of putting a camera in the bathroom
Posted: 3:02 PM, Mar 15, 2018
Updated: 2018-03-15 23:07:00Z

James Kivisto, owner of Wind Lake Gymnastics Center in Wisconsin, has officially been charged with 10 counts of possession of child pornography. 

Police issued a search warrant for his home after reports earlier this week  that Kivisto put a camera in a girls' bathroom at the Wind Lake Gymnastics Center and secretly recorded children while changing and using the bathroom.

Kivisto has owned and operated the facility for the past 11 years and has been coaching gymnastics since 1987.

Kivisto was taken into custody after police found photos and videos on a drive in his computer. He admitted to police he had placed the camera in the bathroom, and that he was attracted to young females. 

The first five counts involve photographs of a nude girl between the ages of 12 and 15 found on one of Kivisto's drives. The other five counts were video files on the same drive, three involving the same young girl in the photographs. 

He also admitted that nearly two decades ago, back in 1999, he was arrested by the Glendale Police for possession of child pornography.

Racine County Sheriff Chris Schmaling says the FBI assisted Glendale Police with that investigation, and the case was referred to the Milwaukee County District Attorney for charges. He does not know how the Milwaukee County District Attorney handled it from there. 

Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern's office released a statement about that 1999 arrest:

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office routinely charges cases like the matter involving Mr. Kivisto in 1999.  I have no further information about that charging decision from 19 years ago.

Schmaling called Kivisto a “disgusting pedophile,” when revealing what deputies found the Wind Lake Gymnastics Center. 

“A couple of cameras were found in the locker room, hidden discreetly between baskets, so he could see children in various stages of undress,” Schmaling said. “Another camera was in an area that overlooked a toilet, so he could view children while they used the restroom. It was actually a parent who first noticed a camera, took it home, and called 911.”

Electronics with child pornography were also confiscated from the gymnastics center.  But investigators do no believe Kivisto shared the more than 100 images (photos and video) he had of the children he coached. 

“He admitted that he viewed those images for his own personal satisfaction,” Schmaling said. “We can't see any distribution that took place. But we will conduct a thorough investigation to make sure. We also are still looking into how long those cameras had been up.”

Schmaling says Kivisto kept a log of the more than 800 children he coached over the past 11 years, as the owner of Wind Lake Gymnastics Center.  So far, the sheriff’s office has gotten calls from 150 families. 

Another alarming detail: The sheriff says Kivisto was living in the Wind Lake Gymnastics Center. That’s something parents were also not aware of. 

“It’s definitely not suitable as an apartment, but he used it as one,” Schmaling said. “He would literally sleep on the disgusting coach he had, that parents would sit on then they came in to watch their child’s gymnastics class.” 

According to Schmaling, Kivisto has never been married, has no children, and has had minimal contact with family or friends. 

Racine County investigators want to hear from more families who had contact with Kivisto. The hotline to call is 262-636-3990.

“There’s no doubt he worked elsewhere, at other gyms, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there was inappropriate behavior at other places, ” Schmaling said. “We’re looking into everything. But as owner of his own gymnastics center, he obviously had more freedom.”

According to Wind Lake Gymnastic Center’s website, it is a USA Gymnastics certified member. And Kivisto has a USA Gymnastics coach membership. USA Gymnastics released the following statement. 

After learning about the arrest of James Kivisto, USA Gymnastics reported the information to the U.S. Center for Safe Sport. Pending the outcome of the report to the Center, USA Gymnastics has suspended the membership of both Mr. Kivisto, under the interim measures in Article 10.5 of the Bylaws, and the club, in accordance with Article 10.13.  USA Gymnastics cannot comment further unless an action taken involves a public result, such as being placed on the list of individuals permanently ineligible for membership.