Texas twin cheerlader stars have filed a $10 million lawsuit, accusing their former coach of sexually assaulting them when they were 15 years old.
Jessica and Hannah Gerlacher, now 22, held a press conference with their attorneys on Monday to disclose their civil complaint against coach Jason “Jay” McCartney, Cheer Athletics and the U.S. All-Star Cheer Federation, the sport’s governing body. .
Cheer Athletics, a chain of gyms, made national headlines last year after one of its members, Jerry Harris, the breakout star of the Netflix hit docuseries Cheer, was accused of soliciting sexually explicit photos and sex of minors.
Cheerleading stars Hannah and Jessica Gerlacher (left) have filed a lawsuit against their former coach, Jason ‘Jay’ McCartney (right), accusing him of sexual abuse
The twins and their lawyers held a press conference on Monday to announce their lawsuit
The Gerlachers claim that McCartney, who coached them at Cheer Athletics’ Plano and Frisco locations, would feel their breasts, crotch and buttocks under the guise of “spotting” them. A “spotter” in gymnastics is a trainer who stands next to an athlete and watches them during a tumbling routine to make sure they don’t get injured.
According to the lawsuit, McCartney would also be pushing his erection against the twins while pretending to “spot” them. The Dallas Morning News.
“What happened to Hannah and Jessica as minors is unforgivable. They went through a lot of pain and trauma that they had to hide,” Andrew Dao, one of the cheerleading attorneys, said at Monday’s press conference.
Jessica and Hannah, who have a large social media following and are still involved in the sport of cheerleading as coaches, said they decided to speak out about their alleged sexual abuse after taking inspiration from female gymnasts, including Olympic champion Simone. Biles, who had come out to charge Larry Nassar, former physician to the US national gymnastics team, with assault.
Nassar is now in prison for hundreds of years after pleading guilty to a slew of federal and state charges.
“The silence around abusive coaches and the failure of gyms like Cheer Athletics and USASF to protect underage athletes must end,” the Gerlachers, accompanied by their lawyers, said in a joint statement. “We’ve gained strength from seeing women in gymnastics speak out about abuse, and we’re here to stop a similar culture in the cheerleading sport.”
According to the indictment, McCartney began abusing Gerlachers in 2015, after Hannah, age 15, suffered a traumatic brain injury during a tumbling exercise (photo around that time)
McCartney (not pictured) is charged with groping the sisters’ breasts, crotch and buttocks and pushing his erection against them under the guise of “mocking,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit alleges that the twins signed up for private lessons with McCartney because he promised to help them reach the highest level in cheerleading.
According to the indictment, the sexual abuse began in 2015 after Hannah suffered a traumatic brain injury during a tumbling exercise at Cheer Athletics Plano.
Prosecutors’ attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel said Hannah’s fragility after the injury, coupled with her young age, “allowed McCartney to abuse her even more severely” than her sister.
According to the indictment, the male coach ordered Hannah to sit on his lap, where he stroked the girl’s genitals.
In one instance, McCartney forced Hannah into a room, grabbed her by the neck, and pressed her against a closet.
The indictment says that because Jessica and Hannah viewed McCartney as an authority figure, they were “insecure and afraid” to report his behavior.
The twins said they signed up for private lessons with McCartney because he promised to help them reach the highest level in the sport. The Gerlachers are depicted with their medals
Jessica and Hannah are still involved in the sport of cheerleading as coaches and have a large following on Instagram
A few months ago, the Gerlachers filed an anonymous complaint on the US All-Star Cheer Federation website, accusing their former coach of sexual misconduct, but saying no action was taken.
“We decided to sign up for our sport, but no one contacted us, nothing was acknowledged and nothing was done about it,” Hannah said.
According to the complaint, USASF officials failed to suspend McCartney or notify the parents of his students Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
McCartney is listed as a co-owner of Cheer Athletics Austin on the gym’s website. According to his online profile, McCartney is married and has been coaching cheerleaders for 27 years.
“I want to be able to create a place that offers opportunities, growth, positivity and experiences,” he wrote. ‘A safe place for young people to be themselves authentically. A place without judgment or fear, a home away from home. Changing lives, counting 8 at a time.’
McCartney has not commented on the Gerlachers lawsuit.
A Cheer Athletics spokesperson claimed in a statement to: NBC DFW that Jessica and Hannah never complained about McCartney during their time as athletes with the organization, or in the years after.
“Cheer Athletics remains steadfast in its commitment to athlete safety, including any inappropriate contact between athletes and coaches, and has a proven track record of taking prompt action to address such allegations, including mandatory reporting to law enforcement.” , said Representative Jody Melton.
The spokesperson noted that Cheer Athletics investigated McCartney last year after being approached by the U.S. All-Star Cheer Federation about an anonymous complaint, but failed to substantiate the allegations against the coach, who has passed multiple background checks and regularly received training on how to prevent sexual abuse.
US All-Star Cheer Federal responded to the lawsuit by emphasizing its commitment to the safety of its more than 140,000 athletes.
“We regret any instance of sexual misconduct or harassment of our members, and we have taken significant steps to respond to reports of misconduct and to make it clear that there is no place for sexual predators in the cheer and dance community,” it said in a statement. the explanation. .
The Gerlachers, pictured on their 22nd birthday, said they were inspired by female gymnasts to speak out against McCartney
The Gerlacher twins’ lawsuit alleges assault, negligence, negligent hiring, willful infliction of emotional distress and gross negligence.
The lawsuit seeks more than $10 million in damages from the defendants, but the Gerlachers say their real goal is to hold McCartney accountable and inspire other athletes like them to break their silence about abuse.
“By sharing our story, we hope to help other survivors of sexual abuse find the power to speak and heal,” Hannah said.