Sunday, September 20, 2020

Ex-MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages sentenced to 90 days in jail, 18 months probation

August 4, 2020
Ex-MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages during a status update on March.14, 2019 at Ingham County Circuit Court.
Ex-MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages during a status update on March.14, 2019 at Ingham County Circuit Court. —
Photo by CJ Weiss | The State News
Ex-MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages was sentenced to 90 days in Ingham County Jail followed by 18 months of probation in Veterans Memorial Courthouse Tuesday.

Jail time was argued against by the defense, citing Klages, 65, as an at-risk individual during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Judge Joyce Draganchuk said she will not “send anyone to the jail if I think they're not safe, and they won't be healthy."
Grounds for appeal were also argued by the defense, mentioning the dismissal of ex-MSU President Lou Anna Simon's case. Draganchuk explained she did not believe Klages' case has grounds for appeal.

Klages' charges stemmed from the investigation into MSU's handling of ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar's numerous abuses.

In February, Klages was found guilty of two counts of lying to police, a felony and misdemeanor. Including one of which potentially carried up to two years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine, and the other punishable by up to four years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

Klages' charges involve her denying knowledge of Nassar's abuses prior to the investigation in 2016.

This sentence will make Klages the second former MSU employee to serve time in connection with Nassar.

Ex-MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine Dean William Strampel was sentenced to one year in Ingham County Jail in 2019. However, he served eight months and was released for good behavior in April.

Strampel’s charges were in relation to two counts of willful neglect in his role as Nassar's boss and a count of misconduct in office, a felony.

Two Nassar survivors took the stand

Nassar survivor Larissa Boyce, as well as an anonymous survivor testified at the sentencing. Both women cited Klages' ability to stop Nassar when she did not report the abuses they endured at his hands.

"I am standing here representing my 16-year-old self, who was silenced and humiliated 23 years ago, and unfortunately all of the hundreds of girls that were abused after me. Many who were not even born yet." Boyce said. "The abuse could have been stopped back in 1997... she had the opportunity to address it, but chose to humiliate me, silence me and protect a pedophile."

Boyce testified at Klages' trial that she told Klages she was being sexually assaulted by Nassar in 1997. Boyce was a gymnast involved in the Spartan Youth Gymnastics program at the time. The unnamed witness also testified that she told Klages about Nassar's abuse.

One anonymous survivor listed eight different examples of trauma and abuse that could have been avoided had Nassar been reported by Klages by eight prior survivors.

Klages maintained she did not remember the survivor's report of Nassar's abuses

Klages tearfully took the stand and maintained she did not remember Boyce's or the anonymous survivor's reports of Nassar's abuse.

"I understand that the jury reached the verdict and I understand I'll be sentenced upon that verdict and I accept it," Klages said. "But, I want you to know that I truly do not remember the conversation that Boyce and (anonymous survivor) say occurred in 1997. If it did occur, and I responded the way they said I did, I'm truly horrified and I am so sorry."

Additionally, Klages' defense attorney Mary Chartier said the devastation caused by Nassar could not have been stopped by Klages alone.

Klages said she sent her children to Nassar and there was no hesitation.

"I thought he was one of the most intelligent, caring and kind doctors I had ever dealt with. I was obviously very wrong," Klages said. "He had me completely fooled."

Draganchuk later said Nassar was a master manipulator.

Nassar survivor attorney comments on Klages' sentence

Attorney John Manly, who has led the representation of Nassar survivors, said he wished Klages' sentence had been longer. However, this verdict confirms MSU knew about Nassar in 1997.

"I thought one of the most important things that was said is that there can be no doubt by this verdict that Michigan State University knew about Larry Nassar in 1997," Manly said. "The fact that this university continues to deny any responsibility for this and accept its role is indicative that nothing's changed there."

Manly also said he commended the attorney general for holding those involved with Nassar accountable, however this is in stark contrast to the lack of accountability against USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee for their part in Nassar's abuses.

"That's the piece that really hasn't been addressed," Manly said. "...No one from USA Gymnastics or USOC has yet to go to prison or even go to trial and that is not justice."

Manly also said the survivors who have come forward against Nassar and officials involved are brave for enduring this process.

"It would have been a lot easier to just shut up and say nothing, but I think those women are heroes," Manly said.

Klages' sentencing is one piece of the continued fallout in the aftermath of Nassar's numerous abuses. Currently, the investigation into MSU's handling of Nassar remains halted as the Attorney General's office has struggled to receive over 6,000 documents and an interview with ex-MSU Interim President John Engler.

This is a developing story. Stay with The State News for updates.

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