Naperville man says he was molested at fitness club

Updated 2/7/2013 7:02 PM
  • Robert Theodore

    Robert Theodore

  • Robert Theodore at a running event.

    Robert Theodore at a running event. Courtesy of Meyers and Flowers LLC

A 22-year-old Naperville man filed suit Thursday against Life Time Fitness, alleging a personal trainer molested him at the club's Warrenville location when he was a teenager.

The complaint filed in DuPage County Court by "John Doe" also names former trainer Robert Theodore, who is already facing criminal charges stemming from the same allegations.

Plaintiff attorney Brian Perkins said Life Time failed to conduct a proper background check before hiring Theodore in 2001. Had his history been investigated, the company should have learned Theodore was convicted of trying to molest an 11-year-old boy in Arizona in 1986, Perkins said.

Life Time also failed to act in 2003 after a concerned community member wrote a letter to its human resources office disclosing Theodore's conviction, according to the lawsuit.

"That letter was essentially a gift to them," Perkins said. "It's really all Life Time needed to know to get him out of there, and we want to get to the bottom of what happened when HR got it. Why did they keep him on?"

Perkins said his client was sexually abused starting when he was 16 years old. Theodore has been charged with having sexual contact with the boy in the locker room and hot tub at Life Time's Warrenville location, 28141 Diehl Road, as well as at their homes and while training in Colorado.

Life Time had no comment on the pending lawsuit, but a spokesman said the company was "shocked" when Theodore, 60, of Woodridge, was charged in September.

"Our team since then has been supporting the authorities in their investigation," said Jason Thunstrom, vice president of public relations and corporate communications.

Defense attorney Tim Martin, who represents Theodore in criminal court, said his client "flatly denies" sexually abusing any children at Life Time. He said Naperville police interviewed a dozen other children trained by Theodore, and they all denied being abused.

But Perkins believes there may be others.

Theodore, who briefly worked as a track coach at Lisle High School before going to work at Life Time, also was an officer of a suburban running club, which kicked him out in 2002 after learning of his prior conviction. Over the years, he likely had contact with hundreds of children, Perkins estimated.

"We're really making a plea for anybody who knows anything about our case or knows of anything suspicious to go to Naperville police," Perkins said. "We want to flush out other victims so the criminal case can be stronger."

The plaintiff's family issued a statement Thursday expressing their "anger and sense of betrayal."

"Three years after being notified that Mr. Theodore was a pedophile, Life Time assigned him to serve as our son's mentor, and Mr. Theodore used that position to gain our family's trust," the statement read. "Life Time did nothing and said nothing and allowed us, like other parents whose children were victimized, to deliver our most precious gift from God into the hands of a sick and depraved criminal."

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages. Perkins said he would also like to see the law changed to require gyms and private fitness clubs where children are trained to conduct employee background checks.

Theodore has pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

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