Judge sentences ex-Michigan State gymnastics coach Kathie Klages to jail
A Michigan judge on Tuesday sentenced former Michigan State gymnastics coach Kathie Klages to 90 days in jail for lying to police during an investigation into the sexual assaults of former team doctor Larry Nassar.
Klages, 65, is the third former Michigan State employee to serve jail time -- along with Nassar and his former boss, William Strampel -- on charges related to the Nassar's sexual assaults. Klages was found guilty in February for lying to police when she told them she had no memory of a pair of young gymnasts warning her about Nassar in 1997.
"Rarely is any jail sentence imposed for this non-violent offense," Judge Joyce Draganchuk said while delivering the sentence Tuesday morning. "However, in other cases, lying to the police has had really one area of impact, and that's been to temporarily thwart a police investigation. Here it not only thwarted an investigation, but it also impacted two victims of sexual assault. That emotional impact is far greater and more serious than thwarting a police investigation."
Two former gymnasts -- Larissa Boyce and a friend who has chosen to remain anonymous -- told reporters and then the court that they raised concerns about Nassar to Klages nearly 20 years before he was removed from his position at Michigan State. Boyce and the other woman were members of the Spartan Youth gymnastics club that practiced on the East Lansing campus and was overseen by Klages.
Boyce said she told Klages in 1997 that Nassar touched her inappropriately during a medical appointment in the basement of Michigan State's Jenison Field House. The anonymous gymnast told Klages that Nassar did the same thing to her. According to Boyce, Klages told the two young gymnasts that they could file a report if they chose to do so, but she threatened that it might result in negative consequences for both Nassar and the gymnasts.
"I'm standing here representing my 16-year-old self who was silenced and humiliated many years ago," Boyce said in an impact statement Tuesday morning. "The abuse could've been stopped back in 1997. At the very least my parents should have been told about it."
Nassar pleaded guilty in 2018 to sexually assaulting former patients, many of them gymnasts. He was sentenced in a Michigan court to 175 years in prison. He was also sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for possession of child pornography.
Klages and Nassar worked together for nearly 30 years, starting at a local gymnastics club in Lansing in the late 1980s and continuing through their careers at Michigan State. Klages worked at Michigan State until February 2017. She was suspended by the athletic department, and she retired one day later.
Klages told police in June 2018 that she had no memory of the gymnasts' complaints, and she maintained that during a trial this February when she made a surprising decision to testify in her own defense. A jury found her guilty. 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.
Klages said again in court Tuesday morning that she still has no memory of the conversation that Boyce and the other gymnast say occurred. She said she visited a therapist in 2017 after Boyce and the other gymnast publicly shared their story to try to see if she could uncover a buried memory of the conversation, but that was unsuccessful.
"If it did occur, then I am truly horrified. But I can't imagine that I would not take seriously the concerns raised if they were expressed to me in the way the women remember," Klages said. "... I struggle with what I've been accused of and what my role in this tragedy may have been. I want to say clearly that I'm so sorry if I had anything to do with it."
The anonymous gymnast who provided a statement to the court and testified in the trial said Klages' reaction to the claims she and Boyce made in 1997 silenced her for decades and created a "ripple effect" that negatively impacted hundreds of gymnasts in multiple generations.
"If she was sorry, she wouldn't have lied," the former gymnast said. "If she was sorry, she wouldn't have dragged us through all of this again."
Klages remained a loyal supporter of Nassar, who was the national medical coordinator of the USA Gymnastics women's national team along with his work at Michigan State, until police found thousands of images of child pornography on a hard drive in his trash in the fall of 2016. When reports of Nassar's abuse were first made public by an Indianapolis Star article in September 2016, Klages said she gave a "passionate" defense of him to her team.
"I trusted him," Klages said Tuesday. "I was obviously very wrong. He had me completely fooled. I exposed my children and granddaughter to this man, and I never once thought they were being exposed to a predatory monster."
Klages is one of more than a dozen former and current Michigan State employees who received complaints about Nassar during the nearly two decades that he worked at the university, according to accounts shared with ESPN by survivors of Nassar's abuse. Boyce's complaint was the earliest known report to an authority figure on campus.
Three former Michigan State employees were charged by police in 2018 as a result of an attorney general's investigation into how Nassar was able to sexually abuse his patients for such an extended period of time. Strampel, Nassar's old boss and the former dean of the university's medical school, was sentenced in 2019 to serve one year in prison for misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty. Former university president Lou Anna Simon was charged with lying to police. Those charges were dismissed this May. The attorney general's office filed an appeal to that dismissal in July.
Klages received 18 months' probation in addition to the 90 days in jail. She is credited with one day of time served.