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Ex-Michigan State gymnastics coach convicted in case tied to Larry Nassar

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A jury on Friday convicted a former Michigan State University gymnastics coach of lying to police when she denied that two teen athletes told her of sexual abuse by sports doctor Larry Nassar in 1997, nearly 20 years before he was charged.

Kathie Klages, 65, was found guilty of a felony and a misdemeanor in a Lansing courthouse where Nassar was sentenced more than two years ago. Klages faces up to four years in prison. She is the second person other than Nassar to be found guilty of 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. Prosecutors said she lied in 2018 when she told investigators that the two young athletes, who were in a campus gymnastics program but not MSU gymnasts, had not reported Nassar’s sexual misconduct to her.

Klages testified earlier Friday that she did not remember being told about abuse. She said she was “shocked” when she first learned in 2017 that one of the teens said she had previously told Klages about Nassar, whom she considered a “very good friend, professionally.”

“I have no recollection of the conversation,” Klages said. Later, under cross-examination, she said: “I would think that I would remember something like that. I would think I would.”

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. “Kathie Klages should not be rewarded for her lies that she told you today, and she should not be rewarded for lies she told during the MSU investigation trying to get to the bottom of what happened with Larry Nassar.”

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.

Another witness, who asked that her name not be used in news coverage, was 14 when she said she also reported Nassar to Klages. She said the coach started asking other gymnasts if Nassar had done anything to make them uncomfortable.

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 three children and a granddaughter to be treated by Nassar for years after she was allegedly told of his abuse. She also cited inconsistencies in their stories and said authorities never found anyone who was at the meeting or had heard of it, despite allegations that Klages brought in college gymnasts to talk to the accusers.

“They have absolutely no evidence that even if these comments were made, she remembers them all these years later,” Chartier said.

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.

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Ex-Michigan State president charged with lying to police about Larry Nassar

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Ex-Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon was charged Tuesday with lying to police during an investigation of the handling of serial sexual abuser Larry Nassar — the third current or former campus official other than Nassar to face criminal charges in the scandal.

Simon, who stepped down under pressure in January, spoke with state police investigators on May 1. She is accused of making two false and misleading statements — that she was unaware of the nature of a sexual misconduct complaint that sparked the school’s 2014 Title IX probe of Nassar, and that she only knew a sports medicine doctor, not Nassar himself, was under investigation at that time.

If convicted of two felony and two misdemeanor counts of lying to a peace officer, the 71-year-old Simon faces up to four years in prison. The Mason resident is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday in Eaton County near Lansing.

One of her attorneys, Lee Silver, called the charges “completely baseless” and said he had not seen a “shred of evidence” to support them.

“In my opinion, the real crime here is that these charges are even being brought,” he said. “We are confident that when we have our day in court, Dr. Simon will be exonerated and these charges will be proven to have no merit.”

University spokeswoman Emily Guerrant said Simon — who remains on faculty despite resigning as president — is taking an immediate leave of absence without pay “to focus on her legal situation.”

Simon is the fifth person to be criminally charged in the wake of Nassar’s convictions for molesting young female athletes under the guise of treatment. Numerous other people have lost their jobs or have been sued.

In August, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette charged former MSU gymnastics head coach Kathie Klages with lying to an investigator when she denied that witnesses told her years ago about being sexually assaulted by Nassar. In March, the ex-dean of the osteopathic medicine school, William Strampel, was charged with neglecting his duty to enforce examining-room restrictions imposed on Nassar after the 2014 Title IX investigation.

That probe, initiated by a patient, resulted in the school clearing Nassar.

In Texas, former USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny was charged last month with tampering with evidence while a former sports medicine trainer, Debra Van Horn, was charged in June with “acting as a party” with Nassar in the sexual assault of a child.

Hundreds of girls and women have said Nassar molested them when he was a physician, including while he worked at Michigan State and Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, which trains U.S. Olympians. Nassar, 55, last year pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting nine victims and possessing child pornography, and his sentences equate to life in prison.

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Michigan State cleared by NCAA in Nassar, basketball, football review

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Michigan State said it was cleared of potential violations from an NCAA review stemming from Larry Nassar‘s sexual abuse crimes and reported allegations of sexual assault and violence against women involving Michigan State football and basketball players.

“it does not appear there is a need for further inquiry,” Jonathan F. Duncan, Vice President of Enforcement for the NCAA, wrote in a letter to Michigan State Athletic Director Bill Beekman, according to the university. “[The NCAA review] has not substantiated violations of NCAA legislation.”

Beekman said MSU welcomed the “closure” regarding the NCAA inquiry.

“In regards to the crimes committed on our campus by Larry Nassar, the NCAA findings do not change a thing,” he said in a statement. “NCAA member organizations have a specific set of rules to which we hold each other accountable. And while we agree with the NCAA that we did not commit a violation, that does not diminish our commitment to ensure the health, safety and wellness of our student athletes. That pledge permeates everything we do as part of a larger university commitment to making MSU a safer campus.

“As it relates to the handling of student-athlete conduct issues, at Michigan State we are committed to following all appropriate policies and procedures. Today’s findings provide external validation of [football and basketball coaches] Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo and the way they administer their programs. Mark and Tom represent the athletic department and Michigan State University with integrity.”

In May, Michigan State announced a $500 million settlement with more than 300 women and girls who said they were assaulted by Nassar in the worst sex-abuse case in sports history.

The deal surpassed the more than $109 million that Penn State University paid to settle claims by at least 35 people that assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused boys.

Michigan State was accused of ignoring or dismissing complaints about Nassar, some as far back as the 1990s. The school, however, has insisted that no one covered up assaults.

Nassar pleaded guilty to molesting women and girls under the guise that it was treatment. He was also found to have child pornography and is serving prison sentences that will likely keep him locked up for life.

He treated campus athletes and scores of young gymnasts at his Michigan State office. He had an international reputation while working at the same time for USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

Prominent Michigan State officials, including its athletic director and president in a span of two days, resigned or retired amid the Nassar scandal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

MORE: Ex-MSU coach charged with lying amid Nassar probe

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