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February 26, 2020
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Former Michigan State gymnastics coach Kathie Klages found guilty of lying to police

Former Michigan State gymnastics coach Kathie Klages found guilty of lying to police
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LANSING, Mich. — Kathie Klages, the former Michigan State University women’s gymnastics coach whose once steadfast support of disgraced former Michigan State and Team USA doctor Larry Nassar made her a lightning rod for criticism, has been found guilty of two counts of lying to police.

Klages, 65, could be sentenced to up to four years in prison. Sentencing is set for April 15.

The former coach worked closely with Nassar during their lengthy careers in the sport. A jury found Friday that Klages lied to police in 2018 when she told them that she had no memory of gymnasts complaining about Nassar in the past.

Two former gymnasts — Larissa Boyce and a friend who has chosen to remain anonymous — testified earlier this week that they told Klages back in 1997 when they were teenagers that Nassar was touching them inappropriately.

Klages told police in June 2018 that she had no memory of the gymnasts’ complaints, and she maintained that story Friday when she made a surprising decision to testify in her own defense. Klages said she trusted Nassar until after his arrest in 2016, so much so that she allowed her own children and granddaughter to see him as patients.

Boyce said Friday afternoon that she wished Klages had admitted her mistake and apologized. She said she was nervous and preparing for the worst as the jury got ready to announce its decision.

“Never for the past 23 years did I think I would hear those words,” she said about the guilty verdict. “I feel like a weight has been lifted off of me. I feel vindicated. Finally, justice.”

“When given the opportunity to tell the truth when it mattered, [Klages] chose to lie,” Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark told jurors in her closing statement Friday afternoon.

“People see and hear things differently. This case is about memory — Mrs. Klages’ memory — not what the government thinks she should remember but what she actually remembers,” Mary Chartier, Klages’ attorney, said to jurors in her closing statement.

Another woman told ESPN on Friday that in 2011 Klages recalled complaints about Nassar from other gymnasts. The woman said she also raised concerns to Klages about the former doctor after her young daughter had a painful visit with him. The woman requested that she and her daughter, a survivor of sexual abuse, remain anonymous.

The woman said her daughter was 8 years old when she saw Nassar alone in the basement of Michigan State’s Jenison Fieldhouse during a gymnastics camp. The woman said she was not aware that her daughter needed to see a doctor during the camp, but learned afterward that the young girl felt “uncomfortable, and that his treatment was weird and hurt.”

The woman approached Klages on the last day of the camp to ask why she wasn’t notified that her child had to see a doctor. She also told the coach that her daughter was uncomfortable with the way Nassar touched her.

Klages, according to the woman, said she had heard similar complaints in the past from other young gymnasts. Klages told her that the younger gymnasts were not yet used to seeing doctors by themselves.

“Oh, the girls call him Dr. Larry,” the woman remembers Klages telling her. Klages explained that Nassar was the Michigan State team doctor and treats Olympic-level gymnasts. The woman said Klages went on to say they were lucky to have him — a similar explanation to what Boyce and her friend were told in 1997.

The woman contacted the attorney general’s office through her attorney last month to share her experience with Klages. She was scheduled to be a potential rebuttal witness in Klages’ trial this week. The prosecutors working the case decided during trial that they did not need to use her as a witness, according to Kelly Rossman-McKinney, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office.

The woman said she hoped to share her story at trial because she believes that Klages is not telling the truth about the warnings she received regarding Nassar.

“I just want the world to know these girls are telling the truth, no matter what happens with the trial,” she said.

Boyce, now 39, and her friend said Nassar assaulted them in the same basement of Jenison Fieldhouse in the late 1990s. Prosecutors told jurors in their closing argument Friday that Klages had far more motivation to tell a lie than Boyce or the other gymnast who testified.

“Larissa Boyce, it was not easy for her to do what she did in 1997,” said Rolstin, the lead trial attorney for the attorney general’s office, adding, “She was in Kathie Klages’ office in 1997 as a 16-year-old telling Kathie Klages it felt like Larry Nassar was fingering her. That was not an easy thing for her to do.

“[Kathie Klages] wants you to believe that she could forget that,” Rollstin said. “That’s her defense in this case. That is not a believable premise.”

Rollstin said Klages was motivated to lie to protect her reputation and the reputation of a gymnastics program she helped to build into a Big Ten power.

Boyce started competing for Spartan Youth at age 11. She first saw Nassar for treatment in the fall of 1997 when, as a 16-year-old, she injured her back doing the vault.

Nassar, then 33, had just started his job as an osteopathic physician at Michigan State. By then, he’d already built a national reputation as the national medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics.

Boyce said it was in the 1997 meeting inside Klages’ Jenison Fieldhouse office that she described to Klages what Nassar was doing to her during purported treatment sessions.

“[Kathie Klages] couldn’t believe that was happening … it was somebody that she had trusted and knew for years,” Boyce first told ESPN in a 2017 interview.

The second former Spartan Youth gymnast, now 37, was 14 when, she says, she too expressed concerns about Nassar to Klages, telling her in that same 1997 meeting that Nassar had also touched her inappropriately.

“[Klages] said ‘Larissa’s saying this about Dr. Nassar, that he’s touching her in this way. Is that happening to you also?’ And I remember being scared. But I nodded ‘Yes, this is happening to me as well….'” the second former gymnast told ESPN in 2017, adding, “I thought I was gonna have someone to help me and it wasn’t that sense at all of getting help. It was more a sense of ‘Who have you told so far?’ and ‘Let’s not talk about this anymore.'”

Boyce said Klages later held up a piece of paper during their 1997 meeting and presented her with a choice: “I remember her saying, ‘Well, I could file something but there’s going to be serious consequences both for you and Dr. Nassar.’

“I was silenced. I wasn’t going to say anything else,” Boyce said.

“She [Klages] said things to them that made them feel like there was something wrong with them,” Hagaman-Clark told jurors, referring to the message the former gymnasts say they heard from Klages.

For nearly two decades after that 1997 meeting, Nassar continued to sexually assault patients on the campus of Michigan State University and at national and international competitions, where he treated the country’s highest-profile Olympians in his role as national medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics.

In 2014, Klages used Nassar as a recruiting tool. In a letter to a young gymnast listing reasons to join the Spartans, Klages wrote: “We have Larry Nassar! Enough said about that!”

In the fall of 2016, after accusations of Nassar’s sexual assaults were first reported in the Indianapolis Star, Klages gave what she called a “passionate” defense of Nassar. She had known him at that point since 1988, starting when she was a coach and he was a volunteer athletic trainer at Great Lakes Gymnastics, a Lansing club, and later as Nassar treated Klages’ gymnasts at MSU.

“This man was a caring and phenomenal doctor, I thought. So, I defended this person,” Klages testified Friday.

In a 2016 meeting with MSU gymnasts, Klages acknowledged, she asked gymnasts to sign a card for Nassar after the Indianapolis Star reported that two women had come forward to report sexual abuse by Nassar.

“They were not required to sign,” Klages testified.

In a recent Twitter post, Lindsey Hull, who competed for the Spartans as a gymnast under her maiden name, Lindsey Lemke, described Klages’ behavior in that 2016 meeting as “One of the most unprofessional things I have ever seen.” Hull later identified herself as a victim of Nassar’s sexual abuse and said Klages’ response in late 2016 “was to cry and defend [Nassar] instead of asking if this had happened to any of us.”

From the witness stand, Klages said it was only after investigators discovered thousands of images of child pornography on Nassar’s computer, in late 2016, that her faith in her longtime friend changed. She was not asked about any other warnings or complaints, such as from the mother in 2011.

“That was the point at which I [went] ‘Whoa, there’s something about this man I know nothing about.’ It started to make me very weary, concerned,” Klages said.

In February 2017, Michigan State University suspended Klages for her outspoken support of Nassar. She resigned a day later after 27 years of coaching the program.

Klages is the third former Michigan State employee convicted of a crime connected to the Nassar case. Along with Nassar and Klages, former medical school dean William Strampel was sentenced in 2019 to one year in prison for misconduct in public office and willful neglect of duty. Former university president Lou Anna Simon, who has also been charged with lying to a peace officer, is awaiting trial.

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