14 July 2023

Ex-AFL umpire Michael Rigo accused of sexually abusing teen in 1980s

| Albert McKnight
man leaving court

Michael Henry Rigo, 68, leaves court on Friday after being charged with alleged historical sexual assaults. Photo: Albert McKnight.

CONTENT WARNING: This article refers to alleged sexual abuse.

A former AFL umpire is accused of sexually abusing a boy under the age of 18 in the 1980s after telling him he could help improve his own skills as an umpire.

It is alleged the complainant, who was then a junior AFL umpire himself, had gotten a flat tyre on his bicycle when Michael Henry Rigo drove up alongside him and offered him a lift home, court documents claim.

During the alleged drive, Mr Rigo, then aged in his 30s, offered to give him one-on-one umpire coaching. He also spoke to the complainant’s parents, who agreed he could coach their son.

It is alleged he became a trusted coach to the complainant in the 1980s, but also started to make sexual comments during their conversations, such as asking about his sexual experiences.

Also, the complainant believed Mr Rigo was a police officer due to what the older man told him.

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The first incident was said to have occurred when Mr Rigo allegedly drove the complainant to a pool and exposed himself to him. Then he allegedly drove the boy to his home, put on a pornographic movie and sexually assaulted him.

Mr Rigo allegedly told him not to tell anyone as it would ruin the boy’s reputation and prevent his future career aspirations.

It is also alleged that Mr Rigo sexually assaulted the boy in his car and told him not to say anything to anyone as he could “make life harder for him and his family”.

On another occasion, it is alleged the pair were at Mr Rigo’s house when he tied up the complainant and sexually abused him, despite the complainant thrashing to try and free himself.

The complainant also alleged Mr Rigo had dinner out with his family in Canberra before the older man drove him back to his house and sexually assaulted him, instead of dropping him back to the boy’s own home.

The complainant went to police in March 2023. When police searched Mr Rigo’s home on Thursday (13 July), he told them he was aware of who the complainant was, but wouldn’t say how he knew him.

Police also confirmed he had never been employed in the federal or South Australian police.

The 68-year-old was charged with four counts each of sexual intercourse without consent and committing an act of indecency without consent when he first appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court on Friday (14 July).

The prosecution didn’t oppose him being released on bail, but Legal Aid’s Lorenna Wienert fought against several of the bail conditions that were suggested to be imposed, such as handing in her client’s passport.

Prosecutor Mitchell Greig said he also wanted Mr Rigo to be supervised when he was around children, alleging he had used his position and knowledge about the complainant’s future career aspirations to take the teen to private places where he was vulnerable.

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Ms Wienert highlighted the impact such a condition would have as Mr Rigo has multiple grandchildren and said there had been no other allegations of incidents with children against him.

She said he has a wife and family in the ACT as well as employment working in management in the ambulance sector, so she argued there was no risk of him failing to appear in court.

Special Magistrate Sean Richter agreed the chance of flight was minimal.

He imposed a condition that Mr Rigo not have children at his Denman Prospect home unless his wife or another adult was present, ordered him to report to a police station once a week and granted bail.

The matter was adjourned to 17 August. No pleas were entered.

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