Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review
Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)
The resignation Tuesday of WSU assistant athletic director Jason Gesser derailed the career of an iconic Cougar quarterback who had returned home to raise money for his alma mater. But that future soured in a flurry of sexual misconduct accusations.
Gesser, 39, resigned after publication of a story last week by the WSU student newspaper, The Daily Evergreen, uncovered a litany of allegations. Those reports prompted Gesser's former nanny to go public Monday with what she described as unwanted sexual advances toward her in 2015.
"I am deeply saddened that recent circumstances in my private life have created a distraction for the department and university," Gesser wrote in a statement. "While I certainly never intended to hurt anyone, I believe it is best for all involved for me to move on."
WSU officials quickly accepted Gesser's resignation after his statement.
Gesser, who set records as a quarterback for the Cougars from 1999-2002, thanked former athletic director Bill Moos and late university President Elson Floyd for giving him the chance in 2013 to return to WSU.
"I apologize to each of you for creating a situation that reflected negatively on WSU in any way," Gesser wrote.
His resignation follows WSU's decision to place Gesser on administrative leave after former WSU athlete Alyssa Bodeau, 27, filed a formal complaint Monday detailing her interactions with Gesser after she moved away from Pullman. While a WSU student, Bodeau, whose maiden name is Wold, had worked for a year and a half babysitting and as a nanny for Gesser's children.
In June 2015, Gesser invited Bodeau to a fundraising event. She joined Gesser, Moos and others for drinks after the event in Tumwater. Once in her car, she told The Spokesman-Review in a story published Tuesday that Gesser made several unwanted advances, including grabbing her thigh, groping her and trying to kiss her. She later described the torment of withholding her story for three years because she thought she was Gesser's only victim.
"I'm extremely happy to see that Jason has resigned his position of influence and power at WSU. It's a relief to know that no other young women will be subjected to Mr. Gesser's actions and abuse of power," Bodeau wrote in a statement. "I pray he gets the help he needs and that his family can move forward."
Gesser did not directly mention Bodeau in his statement, but appeared to make a reference to her.
"To the young woman that I made feel uncomfortable, I respectfully have a different recollection of the situation you've described," Gesser wrote, "but acknowledge that I should never have been in the situation in the first place, and I apologize. I truly never meant to cause you harm."
WSU football coach Mike Leach seemed to know very little about Gesser's situation after practice Tuesday.
"I didn't know he resigned, so that's news to me," Leach said. "I overheard some of the stuff reported but from what I know, it's just word of mouth, so I don't know. Hopefully, none of it's true."
Gesser, who was making $84,000 this year in his job raising money for the Cougar Athletic Fund, issued a statement last week denying any allegations of sexual misconduct. He took a softer tone in his resignation letter and said he remains a proud supporter of WSU and the local community.
"This is a very difficult time for me and my family," he wrote, "and I truly appreciate our friends, including the incredible colleagues and alumni I have met through my time at WSU. With this personal matter being made so public, it is taking a toll on my family in this close-knit community. I appreciate your understanding for the impact this has on them."
Gesser resigned 34 minutes after The Spokesman-Review informed him Tuesday the newspaper intended to run another article in which a woman would detail a separate sexual encounter with him in 2015 in Moscow, Idaho.
Lindsey Streets, 34, who now lives in North Carolina, said Tuesday she was working in Moscow three years ago as a masseuse and Gesser was one of her clients.
Streets said Gesser called her one day and asked if she could work him into her schedule, which she did.
"It was towards the end of the massage. He had complained of groin pain, which isn't unusual," Streets said. "But when I was working on the upper portion of his leg, he moved the blanket" and exposed himself. "And he tried, with his eyes still closed, to reach for my hand. I just stopped. I was petrified."
Streets covered Gesser back up and left the room. "I was very afraid," she said. "I didn't confront him about it. I let him leave, and I called the cops."
Streets said Moscow police officers took her statement and later told her they spoke to Gesser, who said the $40 tip he left behind wasn't hush money but a gift to Streets for working him into her busy schedule.
The officers later explained it was his word against hers, and they never pursued charges. However, Streets said they gave the business a placard that stipulated Gesser was not allowed inside the business for one year.
On Monday, a friend sent her a link to the story about Bodeau's allegations stemming from the fundraiser in Tumwater.
"When I found out that she was his nanny at a similar time that he had this behavior with me, it really just validated my experience that this was going on at that time," Streets said.
"It's terrifying. Especially up there. It's a small town," she continued. "The circles are very close and it's very difficult to have things attached to your name in a place like that."
And Gesser was not just an average customer.
"He's Mr. WSU coach. Nobody is going to take him down," Streets said. "Knowing that there are others gives me the confidence to support (Bodeau) and other women to come forward."
Then Streets learned later Tuesday that Gesser had resigned.
"There are consequences for your actions, especially in this time when it's critical in our society and political culture to be able to call out sexual offenders" she said. "It's not 'He said, she said.' It's about the truth. His reaction is a response to the truth."
Bodeau, in her statement, thanked the "Coug nation" for showing support to her for her willingness to publicly attach her name to the allegation.
"Staying silent is no longer an option," she wrote. "Bring it to light so that we all - as a community - can begin the healing process."
Staff writer Theo Lawson contributed to this report.
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