Ex-USA Gymnastics coach John Geddert found dead; charged with human trafficking

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Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Former U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach John Geddert died by suicide Thursday after being charged with 24 crimes stemming from alleged sexual, physical and emotional abuse against gymnasts in his care, prosecutors said.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a statement confirming that authorities found Geddert's body late Thursday afternoon after the charges against him were announced.

"This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved," she said.

Geddert, 63, was charged with 20 felony counts of human trafficking for allegedly subjecting his athletes to forced labor or services "under extreme conditions that contributed to them suffering injuries and harm." He was also charged with individual felony counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, second-degree criminal sexual conduct and continuing a criminal enterprise.

The attorney general's office said Geddert "sold his reputation as an Olympic-level coach" and promised to turn students at his gym Twistars into "word-class athletes" and secure them college scholarships but subjected them to "an environment of continued abuse" under the guise of coaching.

"These allegations focus around multiple acts of verbal, physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by the defendant against multiple young women," Nessel said. "I am grateful for these survivors coming forward to cooperate with our investigation and for bravely sharing their stories."

He also faced one charge of lying to a peace officer during a violent crime investigation for false or misleading statements to authorities investigating former Team USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar who was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting hundreds of girls.

Nassar worked as Geddert's team physician and in-house medical expert at Twistars for 20 years and was the sole medical doctor whose advice he would accept, the attorney general's office said.

The charges filed against Geddert carried sentences ranging from four years to life in prison.

The attorney general's office said the charges against Geddert were unrelated to its ongoing investigation into Michigan State University, which led to charges against Nassar, adding that the investigation remains inconclusive.

"When this department set out more than three years ago on this investigation, the Trustees stated, 'only a review by our 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," Nessel said. "Yet, if the board does not consent, my office will be forced to close its investigation without a conclusion and you will have shut the door on the pursuit of justice."

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