More than six months after the U.S. Olympics gymnastic doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to an effective live sentence for sexually assaulting his underage patients, the state has filed charges against former Michigan State University gymnastics coach Kathie Klages for allegedly lying to police about Nassar's crimes during an investigation into the disgraced doctor's conduct. She faces up to six years in prison if convicted.
In a statement, Klages' lawyer suggested that her client was innocent.
She is "extremely distressed by the accusations that have been made about her creating any sort of impediment to gymnastics reporting complaints," her attorney said in a statement, according to Fox 47 News. "Had she ever received any information to cast doubt on the appropriateness of that trust in Doctor Nassar she would have reacted immediately to protect her gymnasts."
Special Independent Counsel Bill Forsyth, who's leading the investigation into Nassar's abuses at MSU and who may have known about them, announced on Thursday that Klages is being charged with one felony and one misdemeanor account of lying to a police officer. Nassar was a team physician at MSU during Klages' time as the school's gymnastics coach.
The Michigan Attorney General's office says that Klages told police officers that she'd never heard any reports of Nassar sexually assaulting his patients prior to 2016; however, witnesses say they told Klages about Nassar's conduct two decades ago.
Over the course of those two decades, Nassar molested dozens of prepubescent and teenage girls under the guise of providing them with medical treatment. Throughout multiple trials, he was found guilty of various sexual assault and child pornography charges, and has been sentenced to at least 100 years in prison — effectively a life sentence for the 55-year-old.
Larissa Boyce, who trained at an MSU-based camp when she was a 16-year-old youth gymnast, says that she told Klages in 1997 that Nassar had molested her. An unnamed woman told ESPN that she was also present at that meeting as a 14-year-old, and told Klages that Nassar had also touched her inappropriately. Both women say that Klages didn't believe them and discouraged them from reporting their experiences to authorities.
Prosecutors say that decades later, when the investigation against Nassar was underway, Klages told police that she'd never heard reports of Nassar being abusive prior to 2016, hence the charges against her.
Klages was one of Nassar's most vocal defenders at MSU, and continued to vouch for him even after the abuse allegations against him became public in 2016. During a team meeting that year, Klages aggressively defended Nassar, according to MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis; some of the teammates present at the meeting said that Klages told them not to speak with police, though other students present disputed that she ever said this. The Detroit News reports that in early 2017, four months after MSU fired Nasser, Klages "passionately defended" the doctor while speaking to the mother of a girl who was allegedly assaulted by him.
In early 2017, the Michigan State University Police Department investigated Klages for obstruction of justice. Although she was cleared, MSU suspended her in February of that year, and she stepped down the next day.