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Former gymnast testifies she told Klages about Nassar

Ariana Taylor
Special to The Detroit News

Lansing — More than two decades later, Larissa Boyce remembers going to an office at Michigan State University to talk to her gymnastics coach.

She remembers the small office at Jenison Field House, its "green and yucky" floor and a desk cluttered with papers.

Boyce, then 16 years old, also remembers telling that coach, Kathie Klages, that a university doctor treating her injuries, Larry Nassar, was sexually abusing her, she testified Tuesday in Ingham County Circuit Court.

“Reluctantly, I said that what Larry was doing was making me uncomfortable and that he was sticking his fingers inside of me,” Boyce said.

Klages, who is being tried on charges of lying to investigators about her knowledge of Nassar's crimes, responded by denying that Nassar would ever do anything like that, Boyce testified. 

The first day of testimony in Klages' trial focused on the details of the meeting between Klages and Boyce. Three other witnesses testified Tuesday: David Dwyre, one of the investigating officers who interviewed Klages in 2018; Andrea Munford, a lieutenant with MSU’s police department who helped build the case against Nassar and an anonymous victim of Nassar's abuse. 

In a recording played in court, it was revealed that Dwyre recorded his interview with Klages without the knowledge of her or her attorney. In the tape, Dwyre asked permission to record and Klages' attorney declined. Dwyre said that was fine but allowed the recording to continue. Dwyre testified that it was legal to record during the interview, even if Klages did not want that. 

"I wanted it recorded ... Ms. Klages was a very important witness. I knew that she was a fierce protector of Larry Nassar ... I kept open the possibility that she could have lied," Dwyre testified. "There's no dispute if everything is recorded."

At one point in the recording, while discussing Klages' initial shock of the news surrounding Nassar, Klages could be heard crying. At that moment in the courtroom, Klages shed a few tears. 

Klages is accused of falsely telling investigators in 2018 that she did not remember any gymnast telling her that Nassar was abusing them prior to 2016. She faces felony and misdemeanor counts of lying to a peace officer and could be sentenced to as much as four years in prison if convicted.

During opening statements Tuesday morning, an attorney for Klages argued that she's being wrongly prosecuted for her recollection of conversations from more than two decades earlier.

“This is a case about memory, Klages' memory," said defense attorney Takura Nyamfukudza. "Not about what the government thinks she should remember. … She was 62 years old at the time of the investigation, when she was asked about a conversation 20 years ago.”               

Larissa Boyce, a former patient of Larry Nassar and youth gymnast under Kathie Klages, points out Klages in the courtroom during in the opening day in Klages trial in Ingham County Circuit Court in Lansing, February 11, 2020. Klages, a former Michigan State University gymnastics coach, is accused of lying to police about what she knew about the crimes of sex abuser Larry Nassar.

The prosecution argued that Klages dismissed what Boyce told her in 1997 and brought in several other gymnasts to counter any feelings that Nassar was being inappropriate. 

Danielle Hagaman-Clark, an assistant attorney general, said Klages had ample motives for lying to investigators.

“Telling the truth when it is the most difficult for a person matters… difficult because it involves a personal friend of over 30 years, difficult because it involves your career, difficult because it involves the brand of the college where you’ve worked for many years,” she said.

“We’re here today because the defendant had an opportunity to tell the truth when it mattered and she didn’t," Hagaman-Clark told jurors. "She lied to the police.”

Nassar is serving prison terms that will keep him locked up for life after being convicted of sexual assault and child pornography charges. He's believed to have abused more than 300 girls and women over more than two decades.

During Tuesday's proceedings, Judge Joyce Draganchuk granted a motion to postpone testimony scheduled Wednesday because of a death in the family of Mary Sclabassi, an investigator who participated in interviews with Klages. Testimony will resume Thursday.