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Appeals court overturns Kathie Klages' conviction over knowledge of Nassar's abuse

Kathie Klages
Cheyna Roth
An appeals panel has ordered Klages' conviction to be reversed after determining there is insufficient evidence that she lied to police about her knowledge of sexual abuse by ex-doctor Larry Nassar.

UPDATE: This story has been updated on Dec. 21 at 4:07 ET.

Michigan's Court of Appeals has overturned the conviction of former Michigan State University gymnastics coach Kathie Klages after determining there is insufficient evidence that she lied to police about her knowledge of sexual abuse by ex-doctor Larry Nassar and that her statement had a material impact on the investigation.

A jury convicted Klages last year of two counts of giving a false statement to a peace officer after finding she lied to investigators in 2018 when she told them she had no memory of two teenage gymnasts telling her in 1997 that Nassar's so-called treatment involved genital penetration.

A judge sentenced Klages to 90 days in jail and 18 months probation, but Klages earned early release from probation at the request of her supervisors who described her as cooperative.

In a 2-1 ruling Tuesday, an appeals panel ordered Klages' conviction to be reversed with Judge Stephen Borrello dissenting.

Klages' attorney, Mary Chartier, called the appeal a "vindication," noting that the Michigan Attorney General's office interviewed more than a thousand people in the Nassar case.

"As the agent testified at trial, they interviewed over 1,000 people and not one single person could attest that Mrs. Klages actually remembered the so called conversation from 1997," Chartier said. "So even if the conversation did occur, they presented no evidence that she remembered it. And therefore they presented no evidence that she lied about it."

Klages began coaching gymnastics at MSU in 1990; Nassar worked for the university from 1996 through 2016.

Larissa Boyce was one of the gymnasts who says she reported Nassar to Klages. Boyce testified she was 16 when she told Klages that Nassar had touched her inappropriately but that Klages responded she had known Nassar for years and "there’s no way that he would do anything inappropriate," according to court documents.

According to Boyce, Klages discouraged her from reporting by saying "I can file this, but there’s going to be very serious consequences for you and Larry Nassar.”

Boyce has spoken publicly about Nassar's abuse in the past; WKAR does not typically identify victims of sexual violence.

Chartier, Klages' attorney, says Nassar duped many people.

"I think that every single person who interacted with Larry Nassar likely has regrets," Chartier said. "I don't think there is one person who worked with him in any capacity at the local level, state level, national level, international level looks back on things and doesn't wish they had recognized a sign or wish that they had acted in some way differently. But the reality is that this is Mrs. Klages is one of thousands and thousands of people who interacted with Mr. Nassar from coaches and trainers and parents. And I think she falls into the same category as other people."

Nassar is serving an effective life sentence after pleading guilty in 2017 to sexual assault and child pornography charges.

Chartier added, "Of course, (Klages) wishes that she had picked up on things earlier, but she didn't and neither did the police when they were actually told about crime. Neither did the local prosecutor's office, neither did the FBI. A lot of people did not act in a way that, looking back on it, they wish they had acted on."

In 2018, Meridian Township's manager apologized on behalf of township police who never forwarded a 2004 sexual assault complaint against Nassar to prosecutors.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Inspector General's Office released a report finding agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation failed to respond to allegations against Nassar "with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required" and that an agent in charge lied to cover up missteps in the investigation.

Sarah Lehr is a state government reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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