Friday, February 28, 2020

Former MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages found guilty of lying to police

February 14, 2020
<p>Former MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages sits at a motion to strike an expert witness at Veterans Memorial Court Feb. 5, 2020.</p>

Former MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages sits at a motion to strike an expert witness at Veterans Memorial Court Feb. 5, 2020.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

Former Michigan State gymnastics coach Kathie Klages was found guilty of two counts of lying to police today in Veterans Memorial Courthouse. The jury deliberated for about three hours.

Klages' charges stem from her denying knowledge of ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar's abuse prior to the 2016 investigation. She was charged with two counts of lying to a peace officer, of which one is a felony and one a high court misdemeanor, during the investigation into MSU's handling of Nassar's abuse.

The felony charge is punishable by up to four years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine, according to a statement from the attorney general's office. The misdemeanor charge is punishable by up to two years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

The guilty verdict makes Klages the second former MSU employee found guilty in connection to Nassar.

In 2019, former MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine Dean William Strampel was sentenced to one year in Ingham County Jail in relation to two counts of willful neglect in his role as Nassar's boss and a count of misconduct in office, a felony.

The Attorney General Responds

"Ms. Klages knew of Larry Nassar’s sexual misconduct but neglected to tell investigators,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said in the statement. “She could and should have acted on complaints about Larry Nassar decades ago. That is a failure on multiple levels, but none is more important than her failure to protect the young women who had the courage to speak up decades ago and the hundreds who became Nassar’s victims after that.”

Klages is scheduled to be sentenced at 8:30 a.m. April 15, according to the statement.

Klages was "nervous" to take the stand: "I voluntarily did an interview with the police and look where I'm at."

Though a defendant is not required to take the stand, Klages did anyway.

Klages testified that when she first heard Larissa Boyce's claim that she told Klages about Nassar's abuse in 1997, Boyce's name did not "ring a bell," nor did she remember Boyce when she delivered her testimony this week.

On Feb. 11, Boyce, a survivor of Nassar's abuse, testified that she told Klages she was being sexually assaulted by Nassar in 1997. Boyce, now 39, was a gymnast involved in the Spartan Youth Gymnastics program at the time. An unnamed witness also testified that she told Klages about Nassar's abuse.

Klages said she did not remember any reports of abuse from either Boyce or the unnamed witness in 1997.

Prior to 2016, Klages said she was close with Nassar professionally. She said she learned of the first publication entailing Nassar's abuse in a meeting with the MSU gymnastics team and that she 'passionately' defended him.

"At that point in time, I trusted Larry Nassar and, using my own words, I described it as 'a passionate statement supporting him,'" Klages said. "I was also very concerned about my athletes thinking that Michigan State had been sending them to somebody who could possibly hurt them. Which, at that time, I didn't know that that was the situation."

Klages said she did not ask any of the gymnasts if they had been abused by Nassar at the meeting because it "never crossed my mind." She said she offered up a card for the gymnasts to sign for Nassar.

Much of the trial focused on memory. When asked, Klages said she does not have any diagnosed issue with memory.

"I have family and friends that tell me my memory is horrible," Klages said.

When the prosecution asked her if she would likely forget a conversation such as the one in Boyce's testimony, Klages said, "I don't know that the conversation occurred as she recalls, if a conversation even did occur. But I would think that I would remember something like that."

Prosecution to jury: "(Klages) wants you to believe that she could forget."

Prosecutors repeated the importance of truth throughout their closing statement.

In regards to the testimonies of Boyce and the unnamed witness, the prosecution said the perspectives of Boyce, 16 at the time, and the unnamed witness, 14 at the time, were most important. They said every gymnast dreamed of being on the MSU gymnastics team, no matter if that was realistic or not, giving Klages influence over them.

The prosecution also replayed audio from Klages' interview with attorney general's office investigator David Dwyer, in which Klages said if one of her gymnasts claimed that they were assaulted, she would never be able to forget that.

Defense sought to create doubt within the jury

"This case is about memory, Mrs. Klages' memory, not what the government thinks she should remember, but what she actually remembers," Klages' attorney said.

Klages' attorney also said there were issues with Boyce's memory, specifically an incident in which Boyce allegedly falsely accused another woman of discouraging her from reporting Nassar's abuse in 1997.

The defense especially emphasized that Klages referred her children and granddaughter to see Nassar for multiple injuries after 1997.

"If she had any memory of comments made to her in 1997, would she send her granddaughter ... and her teenage daughter and her two other sons to Mr. Nassar even if she had just an inkling?" Klages' attorney said. "You would have to believe she is some sort of monster to do that."

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