Klages' lawyer says actions of others will be revealed in court

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News
Former MSU Gymnastics Coach Kathie Klages addresses District Judge Stacia Buchanan Friday in Lansing.

Lansing — The defense of a longtime Michigan State University gymnastics coach accused of lying about what she knew of Larry Nassar's sexual abuse will include evidence beyond statements, her attorney revealed Friday.

"Actions were taken," said Kathie Klages' lawyer, Takura Nyamfukudza. "There were actions taken by multiple people ... and there is evidence of those actions that were taken."

Nyamfukudza declined to say what kind of actions were taken and by whom but said Klages' defense will include more than just the coach's word.

"The allegation is that she is not truthful," he said. "Her just saying something and asking people to believe her, I don't think will carry much weight. ... When we present this evidence, we will not be relying on mere statements."

Klages' lawyer made the comments on Friday after the former coach made her second appearance in 54-A District Court before Judge Stacia Buchanan for a pre-exam conference on two charges of lying to a peace officer.

The charges came last month from the Michigan Attorney General's Office and allege that Klages falsely denied to Michigan State Police detectives that she had been told prior to 2016 of Nassar’s sexual misconduct. One charge is a felony and the other is a misdemeanor, with prison sentences of up to four and two years, respectively, and a $5,000 fine.

Part of the state's investigation showed that AG Special Agent David Dwyre interviewed two gymnasts in February 2018, and both said they told Klages about Nassar's sexual abuse in 1997 while part of a youth program. Dwyre said when he interviewed Klages four months later on June 21, 2018, she denied being made aware of Nassar's sexual abuse at that time.

Nassar has admitted he sexually abused young women, mostly gymnasts, under the guise of treatment over more than three decades and is now incarcerated for likely the remainder of his life. Many of his accusers say that if Klages had reported him in 1997, they might have been spared. 

During the hearing, Nyamfukudza surrendered Klages' passport as a condition of her bond even though it was expired. Klages also agreed to waive a court rule that she has a right to a preliminary hearing within 21 days since her preliminary exam has been scheduled for Sept. 27.

Unlike a hearing last week when she was arraigned, Klages appeared in the courtroom instead appearing on a video screen. She said little during the proceeding, which only lasted a few minutes. She departed with her husband and legal team. 

Before the hearing, Nyamfukudza said that numerous witnesses are expected to testify during a robust preliminary hearing.

 "The government, we're told, has a number of witnesses," said Nyamfukudza, adding that possibly six witnesses could be called by the Michigan Attorney General's Office, and Sept. 28 has been reserved if needed for the hearing.

"We will mount a vigorous, competent and passionate defense."

Klages, 64, resigned from Michigan State in February 2017, after two former gymnasts filed lawsuits against MSU and other institutions, saying they had told Klages about Nassar 20 years earlier.

She was one of 14 MSU representatives who received reports about Nassar's abuse over the two decades before his arrest, according to a Detroit News investigation.

Larissa Boyce and another woman, who has remained anonymous, allege they reported Nassar’s sexual abuse to Klages in 1997 when they were high school gymnasts in the Spartan Youth Program, a gymnastics program administered by Klages at MSU. Both said Klages didn't believe them.

Klages is the fourth person to be charged in connection with the Nassar scandal. Others who have been charged include Nassar; his ex-boss, William Strampel, the former dean of the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. and Debbie Van Horn, a trainer who worked with Nassar and elite gymnasts at the Karolyi Ranch in Texas.