By ANNA LIZ NICHOLS, Associated Press / Report for America
LANSING, Michigan (AP) – The Michigan Court of Appeals on Tuesday overturned the conviction of a former Michigan State University gymnastics trainer accused of lying to investigators about his knowledge of the complaints for sexual abuse against Larry Nassar in the 1990s.
In a 2-1 decision, the court did not determine that Kathie Klages had told investigators the truth, but rather that her 2018 interviews were not crucial in a state investigation into how the university had responded to the allegations about Nassar.
The talks with Klages took place after Nassar was sent to prison. State prosecutors have never presented evidence that someone “got away” with a crime because of their alleged cover-up, Justices Elizabeth Gleicher and Cynthia Diane Stephens said.
“It was inconsequential, rather than material,” they said, viewing it in a most favorable light even for prosecutors in the state attorney general’s office.
Klages was sentenced to 90 days in prison in 2020 for felony and lying to the police. Two women testified that in 1997, while attending a youth gymnastics camp, they told him that Nassar sexually assaulted them, long before he was publicly charged in 2016.
Klages maintained her innocence throughout the affair, insisting that she didn’t remember a conversation with either girl two decades later.
Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison after hundreds of women and girls accused him of decades of abuse under the guise of medical treatment.
Larissa Boyce testified that at the age of 16, she found the courage to tell Klages what had happened to her, only for Klages to hold up a piece of paper and say that there would be dire consequences if she filed a report.
“We are delighted with the outcome,” Klages lawyer Mary Chartier said after the appeals court ruling. “It was a long battle, but Ms. Klages was ultimately justified.”
Klages was the second person to be convicted of Nassar-related charges. Her former boss, Dr William Strampel, was sentenced to jail for dereliction of duty for failing to follow safety protocols in Nassar after a patient said Nassar assaulted her in 2014.
Klages was MSU’s women’s gymnastics coach for 27 years. She suddenly retired in 2017 after defending Nassar to his gymnasts as allegations against him made headlines in 2016.
Check out AP’s full coverage of Larry Nassar and the fallout from his years of sexual abuse on girls and women.
Anna Liz Nichols is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.
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