LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A former U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach with ties to disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar was charged Thursday with turning his Michigan gym into a yearslong criminal enterprise by coercing girls to train under him and then verbally and physically abusing them.
John Geddert was charged with two dozen crimes, including forms of human trafficking, a step that prosecutors acknowledged was an uncommon use of Michigan law.
He’s also accused of lying to investigators in 2016 when he denied ever hearing complaints about Nassar, who is serving decades in prison for sexually assaulting female athletes in a scandal that counted hundreds of victims and turned USA Gymnastics upside down.
Geddert, 63, was head coach of the 2012 U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team, which won a gold medal. He has long been associated with Nassar, who was the Olympic team’s doctor and also treated injured gymnasts at Twistars, Geddert’s Lansing-area gym.
Geddert is accused of recruiting minors for forced labor, a reference to the gymnasts he coached, 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 benefit.
“The victims suffer from disordered eating,” Nessel said, “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.
“Many of these victims still carry these scars from this behavior to this day,” the attorney general said.
The charges against Geddert include two counts of sexual assault against a teen in 2012.
Nessel acknowledged 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.”
Assistant 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 Michigan gymnastics history.” 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 an entire world where he was able to abuse so easily,” said Lindsey Lemke, now a coach at the University of Arkansas. “You two sure do have a funny meaning of friendship. You, John Geddert, also deserve to sit behind bars right next to Larry.”