Image Courtesy of CNN
By Margaret Adams
John Geddert, former coach of the U.S. Gymnastics Team, committed suicide on Thursday after he was charged with 24 felonies, including multiple sexual assault and human trafficking charges. The coach of the 2012 women’s Olympic team died hours after he was charged by Michigan’s Attorney General, Dana Nessel.
Geddert was suspended from USA Gymnastics in 2018 due to allegations against him, which were revealed during the investigation of Larry Nassar, who was sentenced to 300 years of prison for sexual assault of the girls of U.S. Olympics Gymnastics.
Geddert, 63, had owned the training facility in Michigan where Nassar worked as the gym’s doctor. Many gymnasts accused him of abuse when they testified during Nassar’s trial.
Makayla Thrush, a member of U.S. Gymnastics while Geddert was coaching the team, said that Geddert ended her career when he threw her on top of the low bar of the uneven bars and ruptured lymph nodes in her neck, gave her a black eye and tore muscles in her stomach.
Geddert was charged with 14 counts of human trafficking: these include human trafficking forced labor causing injury, a 15-year felony, and six counts of human trafficking of a minor for forced labor, a 20-year felony. His other charges include 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.
“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,” said the Office Attorney General Nessel in a statement. “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.”
The human trafficking charges refer to Geddert’s forced labor, neglect, as well as sexual exploitation of the gymnasts.
“It’s an important step in child protection,” said Mr. Manly, attorney for victims of Geddert and Nassar, in a phone interview. “It tells the other John Gedderts that if you do this, you will be held accountable.”
Geddert’s body was found on Thursday afternoon at a rest area along an interstate highway in Clinton County, Michigan; he was absent from a scheduled afternoon arraignment.
Many of the predator’s victims have expressed disdain and sadness for Gerddert’s death, as they feel a lack of closure for the trauma they have collectively experienced at the hands of Geddert. They also express anger at the system and people that allow this to happen.
“Geddert’s abuse, like so much, was never a secret. EVER,” tweeted Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar. “We have to grapple with the reality that it was known, and no one stopped him.”
“For an organization that has claimed for the past 15+ years that ‘athlete safety is the No. 1 priority,’ it’s impossible to imagine a greater failure,” tweeted Aly Raisman, three-time Olympic Gold Medalist and assault survivor. “This is & has always been bigger than John Geddert, Marvin Sharpe, Steve Penny, and Larry Nassar. Why is there still no independent investigation? How many more children have to suffer?”
Sarah Klein, sexual assault attorney and earliest-known survivor of Nassar’s abuse, recently spoke about the hundreds of survivors and how they have been robbed of any sort of closure.
“He tortured and abused little girls, myself included, for more than 30 years and was able to cheat justice,” Klein said. “Geddert was a narcissistic abuser. His suicide is an admission of guilt that the entire world can now see.”