Manuel Minginfel of Micronesia during a weightlifting competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, file)

Manuel Minginfel of Micronesia during a weightlifting competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, file)

Olympic weightlifter convicted of sex abuse of Everett girl

Manuel Minginfel was a star Olympian, competing four times for Micronesia. Now he’s headed to prison.

EVERETT — A four-time Olympic weightlifter from Micronesia must serve 20 months in prison for sexually abusing a girl in Everett.

The child reported in summer 2018 that she had been inappropriately touched twice by Manuel Minginfel, 41, at an Everett apartment complex, according to charging papers filed in Snohomish County Superior Court.

Minginfel, a 5-foot-1 native of the tiny Yap Islands in the western Pacific Ocean, ranked among the top 10 lifters in the world for his weight class at the Olympic games in London in 2012 and Athens in 2004. He competed in Sydney and Beijing, too. With 21 gold medals at the Pacific Games starting in 1999, he became “the most decorated male weightlifter” in the competition’s history, according to the International Weightlifting Federation.

He was expected to represent the Federated States of Micronesia in the Olympics for a fifth time in 2016, but he had to stop training because his wife was ill, according to a report by Radio New Zealand. That was around the time of the first incident in question.

In the girl’s account, she awoke about three years ago to find Minginfel putting his hand down her pajamas. He told her not to tell anybody, she reported. At the time, she was under 13. A second incident happened about two years later, on the same day that the girl spoke with police. Again, she awoke to find Minginfel touching her, this time pulling at her knee like he was trying to spread her legs, the charges say. It wasn’t until the second incident that she told her mother, who believed her.

Police interviewed Minginfel. He denied being inappropriate — at first. He told an officer he’d been trying to shake her knee to wake her. He would not say what happened in the first incident until another interview weeks later with an Everett detective. In September 2018, he admitted he sexually touched the girl, once.

“The defendant stated he was not sure why he had touched (the girl intimately) or what came to his mind at the time,” the charges say.

He told a detective he’d been drinking alcohol more often at the time of that incident, and that he doesn’t drink as much anymore.

For years, Minginfel has been an athletic hero in his home country. He was nicknamed The Strongest Man in the Pacific. In his prime, he could lift nearly three times his body weight in the clean-and-jerk event. In 2015, at age 37, he took home a gold medal in spite of being the oldest weightlifting competitor at the Pacific Games.

Minginfel’s primary language is Yapese, a tongue spoken by only a few thousand people worldwide. Attorneys struggled to find an interpreter for court hearings.

Minginfel pleaded guilty to indecent liberties in November 2019 for having sexual contact with the girl when she was incapable of consent. A plea agreement called for the most prison time possible under Washington guidelines, one year and eight months.

Minginfel had no criminal record. Under the advice of his defense attorney, he did not participate in a pre-sentencing investigation for those convicted of sex crimes.

Superior Court Judge Joe Wilson handed down the sentence last week. The child and her mother did not attend the court hearing.

Upon his release from prison, Minginfel will be on probation for three years. He’s banned from drinking alcohol during that time, and he must register as a sex offender.

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; Twitter: @snocaleb.

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