Ex-Michigan State gymnastics coach formally charged in Nassar case
Former Michigan State University women’s gymnastics coach Kathie Klages was arraigned Thursday on two counts of lying to a peace officer as part of the investigation into Larry Nassar’s abuse at the school, according to the Michigan attorney general’s office.
Klages was charged with one felony count and one misdemeanor count for what prosecutors said was her false denial to investigators about Nassar’s sexual abuse.
“While investigating how Larry Nassar was able to get away with sexually assaulting hundreds of individuals on and off Michigan State’s campus, Klages denied to Michigan State Police detectives having been told prior to 2016 of Nassar’s sexual misconduct,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement.
“Witnesses have said that they reported Nassar’s sexual abuse to Klages dating back more than 20 years.”
Judge Louise Alderson oversaw the arraignment and gave Klages a $5,000 bond with a 10% payment required, according to Andrea Bitely, director of communications and government affairs for the Michigan attorney general.
Defense attorney Mary Chartier told CNN earlier this week that Klages will plead not guilty to the charges.
“We are confident that she will be cleared of these allegations,” Chartier said.
Klages was the women’s gymnastics coach when Nassar, a prominent team doctor for Michigan State and USA Gymnastics, sexually abused hundreds of girls and women for decades under the guise of providing medical treatment.
How we got here
Nassar pleaded guilty last year to state charges of criminal sexual conduct and federal charges of child pornography. As part of his plea deal, Michigan courts allowed any and all of his victims to speak to him and put their experience in the public record.
Nearly 200 girls and women — an “army of survivors,” as they said — came forward to describe harrowing tales of Nassar’s abuse and to take on suspected enablers at Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee.
Klages, who retired in 2017, was one person named in the hearings. Gymnast Larissa Boyce said that she told Klages 20 years ago about Nassar’s abuse, but nothing was done.
“Instead of being protected, I was humiliated. I was in trouble and brainwashed into believing that I was the problem,” said Boyce, who at the time was a member of the university’s youth gymnastics program.
Boyce said Klages told her she could not imagine Nassar “doing anything questionable” and then discouraged her from filing a formal complaint, according to a federal lawsuit.
“This could have stopped in 1997,” Boyce said. “But instead of notifying authorities or even my parents, we were interrogated. We were led to believe we were misunderstanding a medical technique.
“I was not protected by the adults I trusted,” she said.
Reaction to the charges
Lindsey Lemke, a Michigan State student and gymnast, told Klages in fall 2016 that Nassar had sexually abused her, according to a statement sent through the law firm Manly, Stewart & Finaldi.
But Klages told Lemke that Nassar’s procedures were legitimate and encouraged her and other gymnasts to sign a “sympathy card” for Nassar, the statement said.
“It is such a relief to finally see the truth come out about Klages,” Lemke said in the statement. “When I first exposed her failure to protect her athletes from Nassar, I received enormous criticism and personal attacks from her supporters at MSU. This is why victims of sexual abuse suffer in silence, because people in power bully them and enable predators.”
Klages is no longer an employee at the university, Michigan State spokeswoman Emily Guerrant said in a statement last week.
“The university was not present when she gave statements to the Michigan State Police, so we have no comment on what she told investigators or the charges announced today,” Guerrant said then.
“MSU is committed to implementing changes for the fall semester that enhance prevention and education programming and establish new safety measures as well as increase resources and support for survivors of sexual assault.”
In the wake of Nassar’s stunning sentencing hearings, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette appointed a special independent counsel to look into who at Michigan State knew about Nassar, when they knew it and what they did about it. The charges against Klages stem from that investigation.