Former US Olympic Gymnastic coach faces criminal investigation

CHARLOTTE, MI (WLNS) – The Eaton County Sheriff’s Office has re-opened a criminal investigation into Twistars Gymnastics Club owner John Geddert.

The investigation, which was previously closed in September of 2017, was prompted by reports taken to the Michigan State University Police Dept. while it received complaints against Larry Nassar.

Nassar, the former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor has admitted to sexually abusing young women and girls under the guise of medical treatment. He was recently sentenced to between 40 and 175 years for his crimes in Ingham County and 40 to 125 years for his crimes in Eaton County.

According to police reports obtained by 6 News, in March of 2017, MSU Police heard accusations of child abuse against Geddert, who has been the owner of Twistars for more than a decade.

Those reports prompted officials at the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office to open its investigation into Geddert.

Twistars, located in Dimondale, is the same place Nassar treated dozens of patients over two decades while he worked as the team doctor for MSU and USA Gymnastics.

Geddert is a prominent name in the Mid-Michigan community. He even served as the head coach of the USA Gymnastics team during the 2012 Olympics, leading “Fierce Five” to the team gold medal.

After seven months of investigating Geddert for alleged “simple assault,” documents show, the detective closed the case in September “pending any further contact, potential witnesses, or victims coming forward.”

That is happening now.

On Tuesday, the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office said more people are coming forward with accusations against Geddert, so the investigation is on-going. Officials declined to comment any further.

6 News also reached out to Geddert’s attorney several times but did not hear back. A spokesperson has previously declined to comment, citing the fact that Geddert has never been charged with a crime.

6 News has spoken with some of the parents of gymnasts who filed those police reports in 2017. They spoke with us under the condition they would remain anonymous, saying they fear they will be retaliated against if they reveal their names and identities.

6 News has identified them has “Parent 1” and “Parent 2.”

“Parent 1” said she’s feeling empowered to speak out now, after dozens of women shared stories of abuse by Geddert during Larry Nassar’s sentencing in Ingham and Eaton County.

“People do not understand how powerful this man is. He knows every judge that’s in the state, every coach that’s in the state, and everybody is equally afraid of the power this man has,” she said. “This is why we didn’t speak out sooner because he [Geddert] is very powerful.”

“I can’t even put into words how that makes me feel, my child has been through enough,” she said. “What happened to her was so wrong, if you saw what he [Geddert] did to her.”

“Parent 1” said Geddert would force her daughter to train despite the fact that she had multiple injuries, including a broken arm.

Those training exercises involve something she said is called “punishments” where gymnasts have to do extra various exercises. Some of those gymnasts can be young as six years old.

“Parent 1” also shared a video with 6 News that shows her daughter falling to the floor during one training exercise. She said the fall caused her daughter to black out.

“Parent 1” said the physical and mental abuse by Geddert began taking a toll on her 10-year-old daughter. She says her daughter would break out into hives before practice and was also diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The second witness to detail physical and mental abuse by Geddert was a father of a gymnast. He talked with police at the end of March 2017.

His wife is “Parent 2.” She agreed to talk to 6 News under the condition she would remain anonymous because she fears Geddert will retaliate against her.

Their daughter began training at Twistars when she was 6-years-old.

According to police reports, he also talked with police about Geddert’s questionable coaching tactics.

According to “Parent 2,” those coaching tactics led to injuries. She recalled one time when her daughter suffered a broken bone because of it.

When her daughter complained about the pain, she said, she suffered even more.

“He [Geddert] said she was lying,” “Parent 2” said. “He punished her by making her climb the ropes several times that night and made her finish practice.”

“Punishment in the gym [Twistars] is physical conditioning,” “Parent 2” said. “So you have to climb the rope or you have to keep doing something over and over again until you physically are so tired you can’t do it anymore.”

“Parent 2’s” daughter trained at Twistars for five years, until the 10-year-old finally had enough.

“He [Geddert] was trying to peel her hand off the bar while she’s doing giants so she would come off the bar,” she said.

Even though she no longer trains at Twistars, she still competes in gymnastics.

A 6 News investigation has revealed that this isn’t the first time abuse allegations by Geddert have been reported to police.

The Michigan State Police investigated the Twistars gym owner twice before – once in 2011 and 2013.

The case in 2011 was denied because Neil O’Brien, assistant prosecuting attorney, said the “physical contact reported does not constitute an assault; we cannot prove assaultive (SIC) intent beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In 2013, the Eaton County prosecutor said he had enough evidence to charge Geddert with assault and battery against a juvenile, but allowed Geddert to seek counseling instead.

Eaton County Prosecutor Doug Lloyd told 6 News that a “determination was made to resolve the case short of a plea.”

Allegations of abuse by Geddert have also been reported to USA Gymnastics.

In December of 2013, a former Twistars employee sent a seven-page letter to USA Gymnastics at the attention of then President and CEO, Steve Penny.

The former employee accused Geddert of maintaining a “hostile” and “unprofessional environment” where he would “scream at,” “belittle,” and “punish gymnasts so badly, one of them tried to take her own life.”

USAG Spokeswoman Leslie King said, “We acknowledge receiving the referenced letter and confirm that it was investigated and addressed through the member misconduct process as outlined in the organizations bylaws.”

“Parent 1” also said she reported Geddert’s behavior to USA Gymnastics in 2016.

In an e-mail she provided to 6 News, “Parent 1” told Renee Jamison, Director of Administration and Olympic Relations for USA Gymnastics, about the physical and mental abuse her 10-year-old daughter had experienced as a result of Geddert’s coaching.

She also told Jamison that Geddert was “stalking” her because she pulled her daughter out of Twistars. She said that stalking included calls, text messages and threats to her daughter’s new gymnastics coach.

In an email, Jamison told “Parent 1” that while USA Gymnastics does not handle “disputes between a club owner and their clients,” she was “alarmed by the allegations regarding questionable coaching techniques,” and her daughter’s “safety and well-being.”

Upset by lack of action, “Parent 1” called Kim Riley, USA Gymnastics’ Managing Director of Athlete and Coaching Programs.

“I was crying on the phone,” she said. “I said this man [Geddert] is stalking us, my child has PTSD, my child is terrified of this man, he will not leave us alone.”

She said Riley acknowledged the fact that USA Gymnastics had received several other complaints against Geddert because of his behavior.

6 News reached out to USA Gymnastics several times for comment, but did not hear back.

Last month, USAG suspended Geddert for violating its “Safe Sport Policy.” One day later, the Twistars owner publicly announced that he was retiring.

Geddert’s coaching tactics also came up repeatedly during Larry Nassar’s sentencing hearings in both Ingham and Eaton Counties.

Dozens of women detailed how abuse by both Nassar and Geddert has affected their lives to this day, citing medical diagnoses including but not limited to, PTSD, anxiety and depression.

“Parent 1” said her daughter not only suffered physical abuse by Geddert, but was sexually assaulted by Nassar. Several gymnasts have told 6 News that Geddert instructed his female gymnasts to see Nassar, and that he would not accept doctor’s notes from anyone else.

“We had to go to Larry,” she said. “At Twistars, we did not have a choice. He was in the gym every Monday night.”

She’s not the only one who said Geddert required gymnasts to see Nassar for treatment.

“Parent 1” is seeking to be added to a massive civil lawsuit that names MSU, Twistars and USA Gymnastics for “turning a blind eye” at sexual abuse by Nassar.

Twistars has asked a judge to be released from the civil suit because of the statute of limitations and because Geddert says he was unaware of Nassar’s abuse.

“Mr. Geddert was not a witness to the alleged abuse and did not learn of it until after Nassar was arrested,” the motion says. Just like everyone else, Mr. Geddert was at first incredulous when these accusations came to light only to ultimately realize that the allegations against Nassar were indeed untrue.”

During Nassar’s sentencing hearing, one woman told the court that Geddert was made aware of Nassar’s “inappropriate procedures” in the 1990’s.