LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A former Michigan State University gymnastics coach testified Friday that she had “no recollection” of a conversation in which two teen athletes allegedly told her of sexual abuse by sports doctor Larry Nassar in 1997, nearly 20 years before he was charged.
Kathie Klages, 65, is accused of lying to police in 2018. She testified that she was “shocked” when she first learned years later that one of the teens said she had previously told Klages about Nassar.
“I have no recollection of the conversation,” Klages testified.
Klages was the last witness to testify in her trial. Jurors began deliberating Friday afternoon.
She faces up to four years in prison. She is the second person other than Nassar to go to trial on charges related to his serial molestation of young women and girls under the guise of medical treatment. Klages resigned in 2017 after she was suspended for defending the since-imprisoned Nassar.
In closing statements, the prosecution said Klages lied in 2018 when she told investigators that the two young athletes, who were in a campus gymnastics program but not Michigan State gymnasts, had not reported Nassar’s sexual misconduct to her.
“It’s not believable that the defendant forgot about being told … what happened to them,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Rolstin.
Larissa Boyce testified that when she was 16 and training with the Spartan youth gymnastics team in 1997, she told Klages about Nassar — long before the scandal emerged in 2016. But she said she backed off and even apologized after Klages warned her that any complaints about Nassar could cause trouble.
Defense attorney Mary Chartier urged jurors to not “rely on the word of two teenage girls from 23 years ago” and noted that Klages sent her children and a granddaughter to be treated by Nassar for years after she was allegedly told of his abuse.
Nassar worked at Michigan State and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. He is serving what are effectively life sentences for child porn possession and sexually assaulting young women and girls. More than 300 victims have said he molested them during treatment for back problems and other injuries.
In August, Nassar’s former supervisor at Michigan State, ex-College of Osteopathic Medicine Dean William Strampel, was sentenced to jail for crimes including neglecting a duty to enforce protocols on Nassar after a patient complained about sexual contact in 2014. Former Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon has been ordered to trial on charges of lying to police, but it is unclear when the trial may begin.