Olympics Gymnastics Coach Dies By Suicide Hours After Announcement Of Human Trafficking Charges

John Geddert, a longtime associate of disgraced former coach Larry Nassar who was charged with two dozen crimes, died on Thursday, Michigan's attorney general said. 

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HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Grooming, Sexual Exploitation and Social Media
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HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Grooming, Sexual Exploitation and Social Media

Between 18,000 and 20,000 people are trafficked in the United States every year, according to the Human Trafficking Hotline. Roughly a quarter of those trafficked are children sold for sex. Social media and digital websites have become major grooming and recruitment tools for predators. Digital websites and platforms, such as Backpage.com, are clandestine marketplaces for trafficking. This episode dives into the underworld of human trafficking and the digital tactics used by those that perpetrate it.

A former U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach with ties to disgraced sport doctor Larry Nassar died by suicide Thursday after being charged with two dozen crimes, including forms of human trafficking, the state attorney general said on Thursday.

The announcement from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel came about three hours after a news conference where Nessel announced that John Geddert was charged with crimes, including sexual assault, human trafficking and running a criminal enterprise.

The charges were the latest fallout from the sexual abuse scandal involving Nassar, a former Michigan State University sports doctor now in prison.

Geddert was accused of 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 Ap

He was 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 was 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 included 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 had “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.

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