WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- John Geddert, former Olympics gymnastics coach, was charged for human trafficking, racketeering and sexual assault, Thursday morning.
- Hours after the judge-issued warrant, Geddert, 63, was found dead due to suicide.
- Chris Bergstrom, attorney for the 63-year-old coach, did not respond to requests for comment.
Former Olympics gymnastics coach John Geddert took his own life hours after charged — 20 counts of human trafficking and forced labor, one count each of first-degree sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault, racketeering and lying to a police officer.
The suicide happened on Thursday afternoon and his body was found at a rest area along eastbound Interstate 96 in Clinton County, Michigan, about 3:24 PM ET. On that day, the coach was expected to turn himself in for arraignment.
The Michigan State Police is investigating the case. Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a written statement, “My office has been notified that the body of John Geddert was found late this afternoon after taking his own life. This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved.”
Geddert, 63, was the former owner of Twistars gymnastics club in Dimondale, Michigan, where he also used to coach.
Hundreds of his clients, women and girls, said convicted sex offender Larry Nassar sexually abused them. Nassar had regularly treated young athletes in a back room at Twistars and many claimed that Geddert knew about it.
Before the death was discovered, Nessel said in a Thursday news conference that Geddert was accused of using force, fraud and coercion. His athletes were forced to train extremely despite an injury. Nessel added that this caused athletes to attempt suicide, harm themselves and suffer from eating disorders.
Allegedly, the trafficking charges involving minors occurred from 2008 to 2018, with a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison upon conviction.
According to Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark, the coach’s only charge related to Nassar was lying to police. Authorities suspected that Geddert knew about Nassar’s sexual abuse but failed to take action. He even lied to police when probed, saying that he never heard complaints about Nassar and that males were not allowed in the female locker room.
“These charges against Mr. Geddert are for his actions and his alone,” Hagaman-Clark said at the news conference. “(The charges are about) his behavior in his gym related to his coaching.”
Geddert’s two sexual assault charges involving a young teen athlete carry a maximum penalty of up to life in prison once convicted.
On his racketeering charge, Geddert was alleged to have trafficked 15 athletes.
Chris Bergstrom, an attorney for the 63-year-old coach, did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
Angie Povilaitis, the lead prosecutor, tweeted about Geddert’s death. “A lot of folks may not realize how heavy & hard today’s news of John Geddert’s suicide is (on many victims and former gymnasts). Speaking to them directly: HE made his decisions & choices-ALL OF THEM. None of the weight of his choices or burdens should be yours to (bear).”
Source: USA Today