A former US Olympics gymnastics coach with ties to disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar on Thursday killed himself, hours after being charged with turning his Michigan gym into a hub of human trafficking by coercing girls to train and then abusing them.
John Geddert faced 24 charges that could have carried years in prison had he been convicted. He was supposed to appear in an Eaton County court, near Lansing, Michigan, but his body was found at a rest area along Interstate 96, state police said.
“This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said.
Nessel earlier announced that Geddert was charged with a bushel of crimes, including sexual assault, human trafficking and running a criminal enterprise. The charges were the latest fallout from the sexual abuse scandal involving Nassar, a former Michigan State University sports doctor now in prison.
Geddert, 63, was not arrested and transported to court. Rather, Nessel’s office allowed him to show up on his own.
“We had no indication that Geddert intended to flee or hurt himself or others. We had been in contact with his attorney and were assured of his cooperation,” Nessel spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney said.
Geddert was head coach of the 2012 US women’s Olympic gymnastics team, which won a gold medal.
He was long associated with Nassar, who was the Olympic team’s physician and also treated injured gymnasts at Twistars, Geddert’s Lansing-area gym.
Among the charges, Geddert was accused of lying to investigators in 2016 when he denied ever hearing complaints about Nassar.
However, the bulk of the case against him involved his gym in Dimondale, Michigan, and how he treated the young athletes whose families paid to have them train under him.
The charges against Geddert had “very little to do” with Nassar, Michigan Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark said.
Geddert was charged with using his strong reputation in gymnastics to commit a form of human trafficking by making money through the forced labor of young athletes.
“The victims suffer from disordered eating, including bulimia and anorexia, suicide attempts and attempts at self-harm, excessive physical conditioning, repeatedly being forced to perform even when injured, extreme emotional abuse and physical abuse, including sexual assault,” Nessel said.
“Many of these victims still carry these scars from this behavior to this day,” the attorney general said.
Nessel said that the case might not fit the common understanding of human trafficking.
“We think of it predominantly as affecting people of color or those without means to protect themselves ... but honestly it can happen to anyone, anywhere,” she said. “Young impressionable women may at times be vulnerable and open to trafficking crimes, regardless of their stature in the community or the financial well-being of their families.”
Geddert was often portrayed in unflattering ways when Nassar’s victims spoke during court hearings in 2018. Some insisted he was aware of the doctor’s abuse.
Sarah Klein, a gymnast who trained under Geddert for more than 10 years and was assaulted by Nassar, said the coach’s death was an “escape from justice” and “traumatizing beyond words.”
“His suicide is an admission of guilt that the entire world can now see,” said Klein, who is also a lawyer.
Rachael Denhollander, the first gymnast to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse in 2016, said she was proud of the women who stepped forward against Geddert.
“So much pain and grief for everyone,” she wrote on Twitter after his death. “To the survivors, you have been heard and believed, and we stand with you.”
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