LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A former Michigan State University head gymnastics coach was sentenced Tuesday to 90 days in jail for lying to police during an investigation into ex-Olympic and university doctor Larry Nassar.
Kathie Klages, 65, was found guilty by a jury in February of a felony and a misdemeanor for denying she knew of Nassar’s abuse prior to 2016 when survivors started to come forward publicly. She also was sentenced to 18 months of probation.
Klages testified at trial, and in a tearful statement Tuesday, that she did not remember being told about abuse. She said she had been seeing a therapist to try to remember the conversations and apologized to victims if they occurred.
“Even when I don’t express it to others, I struggle with what I’ve been accused of and what my role in this tragedy may have been,” she said in court.
Two women testified in November 2018 that in 1997 they told Klages that Nassar had sexually abused them and spoke Tuesday in court ahead of the sentencing. One of the women, Larissa Boyce, testified that Klages held up a piece of paper in front of the then-16-year-old and said if she filed a report there could be serious consequences for Boyce.
“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,” Boyce said.
If the case had not involved Nassar, her lawyer has said, Klages would never have been found guilty. Nearly 200 letters were submitted to the judge on Klages’ behalf, her lawyer, Mary Chartier, said in a court filing ahead of the hearing. She noted that Klages sent her granddaughter, daughter and son to Nassar for health care.
“Mrs. Klages was one of thousands of people, including the police and the parents who were present in the room during treatments, who were fooled by a master manipulator with a singular design,” Chartier said.
It’s “shameful” to say that Klages could have prevented the scandal, Chartier said.
“Numerous people were told about the procedure — nurses, athletic trainers at other schools, psychologists, doctors and a high school counselor — and they did nothing,” Chartier said, quoting investigation reports. “Most notably, police and prosecutors were aware of the procedures, and they did nothing. To ignore this and claim that Mrs. Klages could have stopped the devastation wrought by Mr. Nassar is just plain false.”
Nassar was sentenced in 2018 to 40 to 175 years in prison for decades of sexual abuse to hundreds of athletes.
Klages is the second person other than Nassar to be convicted of charges related to his serial molestation of young women and girls under the guise of medical treatment. The misdemeanor carried up to a 2-year prison sentence, while the felony carried up to a 4-year prison sentence.
Nassar’s boss at Michigan State, ex-College of Osteopathic Medicine Dean William Strampel, was sentenced to jail for crimes including neglecting a duty to enforce protocols on Nassar after a patient complained about sexual contact in 2014.
Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.