USA TODAY US Edition

Charged ex-Olympic coach commits suicide

- Kara Berg

LANSING, Mich. – Former Olympics gymnastics coach John Geddert committed suicide Thursday afternoon, hours after a judge issued a warrant charging him with human traffickin­g, racketeeri­ng and sexual assault.

Michigan State Police said Geddert’s body was found at a rest area along eastbound Interstate 96 in Clinton County about 3:24 p.m.

An investigat­ion was ongoing Thursday evening, and no other details were being released, state police tweeted.

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

Geddert, 63, formerly owned and coached at Twistars gymnastics club in Dimondale, where hundreds of women and girls say convicted sex offender Larry Nassar sexually abused them. Many said Geddert knew of this abuse, as Nassar had regularly treated young athletes in a back room at Twistars.

Geddert was charged Thursday morning with 24 counts ranging from human traffickin­g to lying to police. He was expected to turn himself in for arraignmen­t later in the day.

During a news conference Thursday, Nessel said Geddert was accused of using force, fraud and coercion against young athletes, putting them through multiple acts of verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Athletes who worked with him were subjected to excessive physical training and were forced to perform while injured, Nessel said. Athletes also attempted suicide, harmed themselves and suffered from eating disorders, she said.

Geddert faced 20 counts of human traffickin­g and forced labor and one count each of first-degree sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault, racketeeri­ng and lying to a police officer.

The human traffickin­g charges were related to forced labor that resulted in injury to 19 athletes, all of whom are minors, authoritie­s said.

The traffickin­g charges all were alleged to have occurred between 2008 and 2018. The charge of lying to police was the only charge directly related to Nassar, Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark said. Authoritie­s alleged Geddert knew Nassar was sexually abusing athletes but failed to take action, then lied to police when asked about it.

They said Geddert lied by saying he had never heard complaints about Nassar’s treatment, by denying he was aware of any athletes receiving intravagin­al treatments at Twistars and by saying 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.”

The two sexual assault charges involved a single athlete between the ages of 13 and 16. The racketeeri­ng charge was based on allegation­s Geddert trafficked 15 of the athletes, referred to in court documents only by their initials, for financial gain. The listed address for the racketeeri­ng count was 9410 Davis Highway in Dimondale, which is the building formerly used by Twistars.

An attorney for Geddert, Chris Bergstrom, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Rachael Denholland­er, the first person to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault, referred to Geddert’s death on Twitter on Thursday. “So much pain and grief for everyone,” she said. “To the survivors, you have been heard and believed, and we stand with you. Thank you for telling the truth. What you have done matters. Please stay safe, you are loved and wanted here.”

 ?? GREG DERUITER/LANSING STATE JOURNAL ?? John Geddert, 63, formerly owned and coached at Twistars gymnastics club.
GREG DERUITER/LANSING STATE JOURNAL John Geddert, 63, formerly owned and coached at Twistars gymnastics club.

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