A former Michigan State University gymnastics coach was convicted on Friday of lying to investigators when she told them she did not remember if two teenagers told her that they had been sexually abused by Lawrence G. Nassar, a former team doctor for the university and U.S.A. Gymnastics, who sexually abused numerous girls and young women.
A jury found the coach, Kathie Klages, guilty of two counts of lying to a peace officer. She will face a maximum prison term of four years and a fine of up to $10,000 when she is sentenced on April 15, according to prosecutors.
Ms. Klages had told investigators that she was not aware of Dr. Nassar’s abuse before 2016, but prosecutors argued that she knew of the abuse for more than 20 years.
During a four-day jury trial, in Ingham County Circuit Court, two women testified that they told Ms. Klages about Dr. Nassar’s abuse in 1997, according to Mary Chartier, Ms. Klages’s lawyer. Ms. Klages testified that when she was interviewed about the conversation 21 years later, she did not remember it, Ms. Chartier said.
In a statement after the verdict, Dana Nessel, the Michigan attorney general, said: “She could and should have acted on complaints about Larry Nassar decades ago. That is a failure on multiple levels, but none is more important than her failure to protect the young women who had the courage to speak up decades ago and the hundreds who became Nassar’s victims after that.”
But in an interview Friday, Ms Chartier said, “The jury got it wrong.” Prosecutors, she said, failed to prove that Ms. Klages could recall talking to the women. “If this case hadn’t dealt with Nassar, she would have never been convicted,” she said.
Ms. Klages was a coach at Michigan State University for 27 years. She retired in 2017 after she was accused of covering up allegations that Dr. Nassar was abusing young athletes there.
“We appreciate the jury’s careful consideration of this case and respect its decision,” Emily Gerkin Guerrant, a spokeswoman for the university, said in an email. “At this time, we will allow the jury’s decision to speak for itself.”
Dr. Nassar, an osteopathic sports physician at Michigan State, Twistars Gymnastics Club and U.S.A. Gymnastics, pleaded guilty in November 2017 to multiple sex crimes for abusing girls and young women for years. He was sentenced in January 2018 to 40 to 175 years in prison after more than 100 women confronted him in court, recounting how he had abused them.
In January, U.S.A. Gymnastics offered over 200 plaintiffs, including Olympic gymnasts, $215 million to settle their legal claims.
The women can vote as a group to accept the settlement or decide to pursue their lawsuits and collect judgments from U.S.A. Gymnastics’ insurance policies.
Previously, Michigan State offered Dr. Nassar’s victims a $500 million settlement. The settlement is believed to be the largest ever reached in a sexual abuse case involving an American university.
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