Domingo Ramirez Jr.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
FORT WORTH — Twin cheerleading stars who have more than 65,000 fans on social media allege they were sexually abused by their coach at Cheer Athletics gyms in Frisco and Plano, according to a lawsuit.
Hannah and Jessica Gerlacher, 22, said the sexual abuse began when they were 15 years old as their coach Jason McCartney repeatedly fondled and groped them.
The civil lawsuit was filed Monday in Travis County, where McCartney lives. The lawsuit names McCartney, Cheer Athletics and the U.S. All-Star Federation — which governs competitive cheerleading — as defendants.
The sisters and their attorney appeared Monday at a news conference, announcing the lawsuit.
Officials with Cheer Athletics, USASF and McCartney could not be reached for comment on Monday.
The alleged abuse occurred in Frisco and Plano.
“The Gerlachers have reported to police in that jurisdiction and are working cooperatively with them and we are hopeful that the abuser will be prosecuted,” said Michelle Simpson Tuegel of Dallas, one of the attorneys representing the twins, in a Monday email.
The lawsuit describes how uncertain and fearful the cheerleaders were about reporting McCartney’s sexual contact with them.
“The silence surrounding abusive coaches, and the failures of gyms like Cheer Athletics and USASF to protect minor athletes has to stop,” Jessica and Hannah said in a joint statement. “We have gained strength from watching women in gymnastics speak out about abuse, and we are here to stop a similar culture in the sport of cheerleading.”
The award-winning twins continue to be involved in the sport and cheer community as personal coaches to young athletes, according to a news release.
McCartney’s behavior included using the pretense of “spotting” the twins as an excuse to touch their breasts, crotches, and buttocks, and push his erection against them, according to the lawsuit.
He also instructed Hannah Gerlacher to sit on his lap, where he fondled and touched her genitals, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit states that Cheer Athletics and USASF negligently failed to supervise and train its coaches, and failed to protect athletes in their care.
“We sadly expect there are other victims both of this perpetrator and in the sport of cheer, and we would encourage them to report abuse so the adults and abusers are held responsible,” said attorney Andrew Dao of Houston, co-counsel representing the Gerlacher twins, in a news release.
Cheer Athletics and USASF have failed to act on allegations and confirmed cases of child sexual abuse, according to a Monday news release from the attorneys of the twins.
The lawsuit states that the twins filed a complaint with USASF on its website, anonymously, but they identified McCartney. Officials at USASF took no action, did not notify parents and didn’t suspend McCartney, the suit says.
In the news release, the attorneys said Cheer Athletics had a history of supporting sexual predators, one of them being Jerry Harris, who appeared on Netflix’s “Cheer.” Harris is facing federal charges of child pornography and child sexual exploitation and has pleaded not guilty. Cheer Athletics has continued to post supportive comments regarding Harris, according to the news release.
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