Ex-US Olympics gymnastics coach kills himself after abuse costs | Olympics Information
A former United States gymnastics coach with ties to the disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar killed himself Thursday, hours after he was accused of turning his Michigan gym into a human trafficking center by forcing girls to exercise and then abused her.
John Geddert faced 24 charges that could have resulted in years in prison if convicted. He was due to appear in a court in Eaton County near Lansing, but state police said his body was found at a rest stop along Interstate 96.
“This is a tragic end to a tragic story for all concerned,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.
Nessel previously announced that Geddert has been charged with several crimes, including sexual assault, human trafficking and running a criminal enterprise. The indictment was the latest episode of the sexual abuse scandal involving Nassar, a former Michigan State University sports doctor who is now in jail.
Geddert, 63, was not arrested and taken to court. Rather, Nessel’s office allowed him to show up alone.
“We had no indication that Geddert intended to flee or injure himself or others. We had contact with his lawyer and we were sure of his cooperation, “said Nessel spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney.
Attorney Chris Bergstrom’s comments were not immediately returned.
Geddert was the head coach of the US women’s Olympic gymnastics team in 2012, which won a gold medal. He was long associated with Nassar, who was the Olympic team’s doctor and also treated injured gymnasts at Twistars, Geddert’s gym in Lansing.
Among the charges, Geddert was charged with lying to investigators in 2016 when he denied ever hearing complaints about Nassar. But the bulk of the case against him concerned his Dimondale gym and how he treated the young athletes whose families had paid to train under him.
The charges against Geddert have “very little” to do with Nassar, said assistant attorney general Danielle Hagaman-Clark.
Geddert was accused of using his good reputation in gymnastics to commit a form of human trafficking by making money through the forced labor of young athletes.
“The victims suffer from eating disorders,” said Nessel.
“Many of these victims still bear these scars from this behavior to this day,” said the Attorney General.
Nessel admitted that the case may not fit the general understanding of human trafficking.
“We think it mostly affects people with skin color or people with no means to protect themselves … but honestly it can happen to anyone, anywhere,” she said. “Young, impressive women are sometimes vulnerable and open to human trafficking crimes, regardless of their standing in the community or the financial well-being of their families.”
Geddert was suspended from Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics during the Nassar scandal. He told families in 2018 that he was retiring.
Victims and others watch as Rachael Denhollander, the first gymnast to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse in 2016, speaks at the Larry Nassar hearing [File: Brendan McDermid/Reuters]USA Gymnastics said in a statement late Thursday that news of the charges against Geddert “would lead to justice through the trial.”
“With the news of his suicidal death, we share the feelings of shock and our thoughts are with the gymnastics community as it grapples with the complex emotions of today’s events,” the organization said.
Geddert described himself on his LinkedIn page as “the most decorated women’s gymnastics coach in the history of gymnastics in Michigan”. He said his Twistars teams had won 130 club championships.
But Geddert was often portrayed in an unflattering manner when Nassar’s victims spoke during the 2018 trial. Some insisted that he was aware of the doctor’s abuse.
Sarah Klein, a gymnast who trained with Geddert for more than 10 years and was attacked by Nassar, said the coach’s death was an “escape from justice” and an “indescribable trauma”.
“His suicide is a confession of guilt that the whole world can see now,” said Klein, a lawyer.
Rachael Denhollander, the first gymnast to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse in 2016, said she was proud of the women who came up against Geddert.
“So much pain and grief for everyone,” she said on Twitter after his death. “For the survivors, you were heard and believed and we stand by you.”
So much pain and grief for everyone.
For those who survived, you have been heard and believed and we stand by your side. Thanks for telling the truth. What you did matters.
Please stay sure you are loved and wanted here. https://t.co/7EP9cJ13fa
– Rachael Denhollander (@R_Denhollander) February 25, 2021