A former steeplechase jockey turned hunter/jumper trainer is being held in a California correctional facility in lieu of $1 million bail after being accused of “a lewd act with a child,“ who was 13 years old at the time.
Michael Traurig, 55, was arrested last month in Los Angeles and moved to the San Mateo County facility.
Detective Javier Acosta of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department said Traurig also “was mentioned in other sexual assault allegations which have exceeded the statute of limitations.”
The San Mateo County incidents were “brought to light in October 2021 to a patrol deputy” before the case was taken over by the detective bureau, Acosta recounted.
San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe said a charge originally listed on a jail manifesto was incorrect. He said the actual charge made by his office is “lewd act with a child,” and said he would speak with the sheriff’s department about how the incorrect charge came to be stated on the jail’s website.
He discussed the two alleged incidents leading to the charge, saying they took place sometime between May 1 and 31, 2019 and involved touching and hugging.
Wagstaffe said the delay of nearly two years in reporting the incidents was “because she didn’t report it out of embarrassment. She kept on participating in the sport,” and others came forward to report it to the U.S. Center for SafeSport.
He said, “There are allegations that something occurred in LA (Los Angeles), I had not heard anything had been done on that yet.”
Traurig was listed on a SafeSport interim suspension list as of Oct. 19, 2021 for “allegations of misconduct.” He is the son of Bernie Traurig, who rode on U.S. equestrian teams and is a clinician who now runs the equestriancoach.com training program.
“The big problem with SafeSport is the fact that it is completely confidential and accused are banned from providing any information,” the senior Traurig stated Thursday after a request for comment from Horse Sport.
“This is, of course, frustrating because we are aware of details showing Michael in no way did what he was accused of, but we are not permitted to disclose that information at this time.”
Michael Traurig’s lawyer, Paul DeMeester, said he plans to look at his client’s bail situation “because it is probably set more on the nature of these allegations, as opposed to what actually happened or did not happen in this case. We will be seeking to review that decision quite soon.”
He said he couldn’t make any specific comments about the allegations because “the San Mateo prosecutor is in the process of forwarding me the discovery, which is the information such as police reports, witness statements.”
He added, “I would not surprised if this turns into a battle of credibility.”
A preliminary hearing was set for Feb. 14, but DeMeester said he will ask for that to be postponed.
In July 2019, Bernie Traurig wrote a public comment saying he was resigning his membership in the U.S. Equestrian Federation, U.S. Hunter Jumper Association and California Professional Horsemen’s Association because belonging to them “puts me under the jurisdiction of Safe Sport.”
He emphasized at that time, “I have committed no offenses of any kind, neither current or past, that would fall under the jurisdiction of SafeSport. Having said that, the issue is, and this goes for all members, anyone can make a false accusation and I/we are not protected to defend ourselves by due process. Currently, our federation cannot protect us from false accusations. If an accusation is believed by SafeSport, we go on that list immediately.”
Bernie Traurig wrote those words the month after trainer Rob Gage, who was on the SafeSport permanent ineligibility list, committed suicide.
The U.S. Center for SafeSport was created by Congress in 2017 following a scandal involving reports of widespread sexual abuse in amateur sports. Like other national sports federations connected with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Equestrian Federation made it a requirement for members over the age of 18 (except fan members) to take SafeSport education on the internet.
As of January 1, USEF expanded its SafeSport and Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policy (MAAPP), both policies required under federal law, with the support of new videos from its president, Tom O’Mara and attorney, Sonja Keating.
The effort is dedicated to creating awareness of the newly amended MAAPP. The MAPP video explains policies developed to limit one-on-one interaction between adults and minors, which now are in force off the competition grounds as well as at show venues. As O’Mara pointed out in the new campaign, much of what is involved with equestrian sports does not take place at showgrounds.