Former Michigan State University women’s gymnastics coach Kathie Klages was charged Thursday with two counts of lying to a peace officer in connection to the investigation into the school’s handling of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse at the school, according to the Michigan Attorney General’s office.
“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 release said.
“Witnesses have said that they reported Nassar’s sexual abuse to Klages dating back more than 20 years.”
The charges are for both a felony and a misdemeanor, the release said. The arrest warrant was approved Thursday morning and Klages is required to turn herself in to Lansing Police by the weekend, according to Michigan Attorney General spokeswoman Andrea Bitely.
An attorney for Klages did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
How we got here
Klages was the women’s gymnastics coach when Nassar, a prominent team doctor for MSU and USA Gymnastics, sexually abused hundreds of girls and women for decades under the guise of providing medical treatment.
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 his system of 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 MSU’s youth gymnastics program.
Boyce said Klages told her that 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 the fall of 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 says.
“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 spokesperson Emily Guerrant said in a statement.
“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.
“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.