**UPDATE: Ex-USA Olympic coach John Geddert fatally shot himself at an interstate rest area hours after he was charged with human trafficking, police confirm.**
Geddert’s body was located by troopers at the rest area on EB I-96 in Clinton County at 3:24 pm. Investigation is ongoing; no further details will be released at this time. https://t.co/flr09gDm2X
— Michigan State Police (@MichStatePolice) February 25, 2021
ORIGINAL STORY: Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office has filed 24 criminal charges against John Geddert, former US Olympics gymnastics coach and former owner of Lansing-area Twistars USA Gymnastics Club, accusing him of committing at least one sexual assault and multiple incidents of physical abuse against dozens of his young female athletes.
Geddert, 63, of Grand Ledge, was expected to turn himself in to authorities today at the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office Substation in Delta Township and was scheduled to be arraigned at 2:15 p.m. today in Eaton County District Court 56A before Judge Julie O’Neill. Charges filed against Geddert include:
- 14 counts of human trafficking, forced labor causing injury, a 15-year felony;
- Six counts of human trafficking of a minor for forced labor, a 20-year felony;
- One count of continuing criminal enterprise, a 20-year felony;
- One count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, a life offense felony;
- One count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, a 15-year felony; and
- One count of lying to a peace officer during a violent crime investigation, a four-year felony
“These allegations focus around multiple acts of verbal, physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by the defendant against multiple young women. I am grateful for these survivors coming forward to cooperate with our investigation and for bravely sharing their stories,” Nessel said. “The charges against Mr. Geddert are the result of a great deal of hard work by my investigators and prosecutors, and I would like to express my gratitude for their devoted service, as well as the cooperation and efforts of the Michigan State Police, Eaton County Sheriff’s Office and Eaton County Prosecutor Doug Lloyd and his staff. This case has truly been a joint effort by law enforcement and another example of how authorities at multiple levels of government can work together in pursuit of justice.”
The Attorney General’s office alleges that Geddert’s treatment of young gymnasts constitutes human trafficking as he reportedly subjected his athletes to forced labor or services under extreme conditions that contributed to them suffering injuries and harm. Geddert then neglected those injuries that were reported to him by the victims and used coercion, intimidation, threats and physical force to get them to perform to the standard he expected.
Geddert sold his reputation as an Olympic-level coach and promised to unsuspecting parents that he could turn his students into world-class athletes, allowing them to secure college scholarships, the Attorney General’s office alleges. Under the guise of coaching, he reportedly subjected multiple young women to an environment of continued abuse, in which he also neglected advice of medical doctors – except that provided by Larry Nassar, who served for around 20 years as Geddert’s team physician and in-house medical expert at Twistars.
Geddert also made false or misleading statements to authorities investigating Nassar for criminal sexual conduct, according to the Attorney General’s complaint.
The charges against Geddert are unrelated to the Attorney General’s investigation into Michigan State University (MSU), and the only connection between the two is Geddert’s relationship with Nassar and the latter’s employment with MSU.
Since the Attorney General’s office opened its investigation into misconduct at MSU, multiple charges have been filed against Nassar and others with connections to his criminal behavior.
The Attorney General’s investigation into MSU remains inconclusive, as nearly 6,000 documents in the possession of the university have not been released to investigators. The Attorney General’s office has no legal options available to it that would allow for review of the material. MSU’s Board of Trustees must waive its privilege to the content for the Attorney General’s team to review it and complete its investigation.
To that end, Nessel sent a letter to the MSU Board on Wednesday, urging trustees to focus on what is truly important – providing answers to the people of Michigan and to the survivors of Nassar’s crimes to help them heal.
“When this Department set out more than three years ago on this investigation, the Trustees stated, ‘only a review by your office can resolve the questions in a way that the victims, their families, and the public will deem satisfactory and that will help all those affected by Nassar’s horrible crimes to heal.’ Yet, if the Board does not consent, my office will be forced to close its investigation without conclusion, and you will have shut the door on the pursuit of justice,” Nessel wrote in the letter. “I cannot think of a worse conclusion to the investigation—which this Board asked for—than that.”
Aside from Nassar, the Attorney General’s investigation into MSU resulted in the filing of charges against MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon, Dean William Strampel and Kathie Klages. Here is a brief update on those cases:
- People v Larry Nassar – In December 2020, the Michigan Court of Appeals denied Nassar’s request for a new sentencing hearing in a 2-1 decision. On Feb. 16, Nassar filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court, again seeking a new sentencing hearing. The Attorney General’s office will file a response in the Michigan Supreme Court asking it to leave the Court of Appeals decision in place.
- People v Lou Anna K. Simon – The district court found sufficient evidence to bind Simon over for trial for several counts of lying to the police in 2018. Subsequently, the circuit court quashed the bindover, holding the evidence was insufficient to present to a jury. The Attorney General’s office filed an appeal brief on Aug. 24 in the Court of Appeals to reinstate the bindover. The case is awaiting oral argument.
- People v William Strampel – Strampel was convicted of misconduct in office for his sexual exploitation of female students at the College of Osteopathic Medicine, as well as willful neglect of duty for failing to properly oversee Nassar. He was sentenced to one year in jail with credit for time served and has now been released. Strampel appealed only his misconduct-in-office conviction, contending that he was not a public officer and therefore was not subject to that crime. The Michigan Court of Appeals disagreed and in January 2021 affirmed his conviction.
- People v Kathie Klages – Klages was convicted in February 2020 of two counts of lying to a police officer and sentenced to 90 days jail. She has filed an appeal, which is currently pending in the Court of Appeals.
Portions of this investigation and prosecution were supported in part by Grant No. WE AX 0030 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.