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Former head coach of US Olympic gymnastics dies by suicide after being charged with sexual assault and human trafficking

Tyler Lauletta   

Former head coach of US Olympic gymnastics dies by suicide after being charged with sexual assault and human trafficking
  • Former US women's gymnastics coach John Geddert has died by suicide.
  • He had been charged with 24 felonies, including 20 counts of human trafficking.
  • Geddert was also accused of lying to a peace officer in relation to the case against Larry Nassar.

Former US women's gymnastics coach John Geddert died by suicide shortly after he was charged with 24 felonies on Thursday, including 20 counts of human trafficking and two counts of criminal sexual conduct. Several of the charges were related to minors.

"My office has been notified that the body of John Geddert was found late this afternoon after taking his own life," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement. "This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved."

Geddert was scheduled to turn himself in to the sheriff's office on Thursday afternoon but did not show up, according to Kim Kozlowski of The Detroit News.

He was also accused of lying to a peace officer in relation to a previous denial of his knowledge of complaints against the former team doctor Larry Nassar.

Geddert, 63, was the head coach of the US women's gymnastics team that won the gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics. In addition to his Olympic coaching career, Geddert ran Twistars USA Gymnastics in Michigan, where some of Nassar's assaults took place.

Nassar is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison, having been convicted on child pornography and sexual-assault charges.

Nessel laid out the charges against Geddert at a press conference on Thursday.

"It is alleged that John Geddert used force, fraud, and coercion against the young athletes that came to him for gymnastics training for financial benefit to him," Nessel said. "The victims suffer from disordered eating including bulimia and anorexia, suicide attempts and self-harm, excessive physical conditioning, repeatedly being forced to perform even when injured, extreme emotional abuse, and physical abuse including sexual assault."

Geddert faced a criminal sexual-conduct charge in the first degree and one in the second degree. The same woman was named in both instances. In those charges, Geddert was accused of sexual penetration of somebody older than 13 but younger than 16.

According to the indictment, 14 of the charges are human trafficking - forced labor resulting in injury. Geddert is accused of knowingly subjecting or attempting to subject gymnasts into "forced labor or services by causing or threatening to cause physical harm." Six other human-trafficking charges are related to accusations that Geddert used minors for forced labor or services.

Nessel added that the case against Geddert might differ from what many generally think of with regard to human trafficking.

"We think of it predominantly as affecting people of color, or those without means to protect themselves from this type of crime, but honestly it can happen to anyone, anywhere," Nessel said. "Just like the perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual assault, traffickers can seize an opportunity at any time, and use the vulnerability of their victims to their advantage."

According to Lindsey Lemke, one of the women named in the indictment, the human-trafficking charges were surprising but made sense after they were explained to her, Kara Berg of IndyStar reported.

Berg wrote: "She said they traveled to out-of-state competitions where, if they won, Geddert would earn money for the club. Gymnasts were forced to compete while injured and Geddert would abuse and manipulate them, she said."

Sarah Klein, a gymnast who was abused by Nassar, spoked with The Detroit News about her time as a gymnast under Geddert. In one instance, Klein vomited after eating french fries, she said.

"He was so mad that he pushed my face in the vomit and then called the rest of the girls over to stand around me and watch me clean it up," Klein told the outlet. "He did that because French fries were not on his 'nutritional guidelines.'"

Klein also alleged Nassar and Geddert enabled each other's abuse.

"We didn't just survive Nassar. We also survived John Geddert," Klein told The Detroit News. "John broke us, physically and psychologically, and Larry was there to put us back together. These two men developed a good cop/bad cop dynamic from the beginning that benefitted them both enormously. They enabled each other's abuse.

USA Gymnastics suspended Geddert in 2018. He then transferred ownership of the Twistars facility to his wife. The criminal investigation began shortly after that and just days after the sentencing of Nassar, according to The Detroit News.


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