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Officials: Well-known youth sports referee facing criminal sexual conduct charges

Gerald Allen Sutter
Posted at 3:21 PM, Oct 26, 2022

(WXYZ) — Ingham County Sheriff’s Office says a well-known athletic official for youth sports is facing criminal sexual conduct charges.

According to officials, 70-year-old Gerald Allen Sutter from Lansing Township was arraigned on three counts of criminal sexual conduct involving a minor male victim. The alleged assaults reportedly happened from 2019 through 2021 in the suspect’s home.

Officials say they believe there is potentially other victims, which is why we are showing his mugshot.

The sheriff’s office says Sutter has traveled all over the state over the past 50 years officiating athletics, primarily working in the mid-Michigan area.

Sutter reportedly also went by “Jerry” and the nickname “Dewey.”

While many knew Sutter as their referee, Gary Kanan knew Sutter as partner, officiating alongside him for 30 years.

“I'm going, 'Oh my God. Are you kidding me?'” Kanan said when he saw the press conference. "He's been around for 50 years officiating, so this is a shock to everybody.”

While the charges are surprising to Kanan, he says Sutter wasn't well-liked among coaches and fellow officials, often making questionable calls.

"Jerry was… he was different. He was funny, goofy... he was more on his own," Kanan said. "He got himself in trouble all the time and other people wouldn't work with him, they didn't want to be his partner."

The Michigan High School Athletic Association says Sutter was registered as a high school official for 50 years and worked football, basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball games.

The Ingham County Sheriff’s Department says he officiated youth sports up to college sports all over the state, mainly in mid-Michigan. They say it appears he tried to befriend young male victims showering them with gifts and attention.

“It appears, unfortunately in this case, Mr. Sutter was using that role to groom his victims,” Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wrigglesworth said.

After law enforcement received a tip, they got a search warrant for Sutter’s Lansing home. Based on evidence inside, they believe there’s likely more than just one victim and that this case could span decades.

Geoff Kimmerly, director of communications for MHSAA, says all officials undergo an initial background check and are checked again periodically throughout their tenure. Sutter's record was clean.

"Our greatest priority is the safety of our participants and especially children,” Kimmerly said. "He has undergone the series of background checks that we do on our officials through the years and there was nothing on his record.”

Kimmerly said once the MHSAA learned of the charges, Sutter was immediately suspended.

As for Kanan, he’s now officiating in South Carolina and says the acts Sutter is accused of put his profession in a bad light.

“We're not there to harm or hurt anybody," Kanan said of officials. "For something like this to happen, it’s disgusting and terrible.”

A phone line has been created specifically for this case at 517-676-8440 for any possible victims who want to come forward. Information can also be emailed to officialhotline@ingham.org.