LANSING, Mich. (AP) – A former U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach linked to sports physician Larry Nassar was charged Thursday with turning his Michigan gym into a year-long criminal enterprise by forcing girls to train with him and then abuse them verbally and physically.
John Geddert was charged With two dozen crimes, including forms of human trafficking, a step that prosecutors recognized was an unusual use of Michigan law.
He is also accused of lying to investigators in 2016 when he denied hearing complaints about Nassar, who is serving decades in prison for sexually assaulting female athletes in a scandal that had hundreds of victims and turned USA Gymnastics upside down.
Geddert, 63, was the head coach of the 2012 United States Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team, which won a gold medal. He has long been associated with Nassar, who was the Olympic team doctor and also treated injured gymnasts at Twistars, Geddert’s Lansing-area gym.
Geddert is charged with recruiting minors for forced labor, a reference to gymnasts he trained, according to documents filed in an Eaton County court.
A message seeking comment was left with Geddert’s attorney. Attorney General Dana Nessel said the coach used “force, fraud and coercion” for financial gain.
“Victims suffer from eating disorders,” Nessel said, “which include bulimia and anorexia, suicide attempts and self-harm attempts, excessive physical conditioning, being repeatedly forced to act even when injured, extreme emotional abuse and physical abuse, including assault. sexual.
“Many of these victims still bear these scars from this behavior to this day,” the attorney general said.
The charges against Geddert include two counts of sexual assault against a teenager in 2012.
Nessel acknowledged that the case may not fit the common understanding of human trafficking.
“We think it predominantly affects people of color or people without means to protect themselves … but honestly, it can happen to anyone, anywhere,” he said. “Impressionable young women can sometimes be vulnerable and open to trafficking offenses, regardless of their stature in the community or the financial well-being of their families.”
Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark said the charges against Geddert “have very little to do” with Nassar.
Geddert was suspended by Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics during the Nassar scandal. He told families in 2018 that he was retiring.
On his LinkedIn page, Geddert described himself as the “most decorated women’s gymnastics coach in the history of Michigan gymnastics.” He said his Twistars teams won 130 club championships.
But Geddert was often portrayed in unflattering ways when Nassar’s victims spoke during court hearings in 2018.
“What a great best friend John was to Larry for giving him a whole world that he could so easily abuse,” said Lindsey Lemke, now a coach at the University of Arkansas. “You two have a funny meaning of friendship. You, John Geddert, deserve to sit behind bars with Larry too. “
White reported from Detroit.
Nichols is a member of the staff of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on uncovered topics.