Michigan State University Police opened an investigation last year into allegations that then-women’s gymnastics coach, Kathie Klages, and other MSU Athletic Department staff obstructed the criminal investigation into Larry Nassar.
That investigation focused on an MSU gymnastics team meeting in September 2016, when the school informed athletes about news stories coming out accusing Nassar of sexual abuse. At least one athlete said MSU staffers told the team not to talk to police, discouraged them from reporting abuse, and warned them their phones could be searched.
While police ultimately closed the investigation without seeking criminal charges, multiple student athletes told investigators they felt Klages indirectly discouraged them from reporting abuse through her emotional, outspoken support of Nassar. Several also told police the “tone” of that meeting created the impression that student athletes shouldn’t talk to police.
An intense team meeting in September 2016
“The police have a job to do, so let’s not insert ourselves,” Jamie Baldwin, Director of Athletic Communication, said at that team meeting, according to her interview with police. Baldwin told police she meant “for them not to insert themselves by talking to the media.” At the time, Baldwin said, it didn’t occur to her that police would even need to speak with anybody at MSU about Nassar, since she didn’t yet know the allegations against him were connected to his work at the school.
Klages, for her part, told police she regretted giving student athletes “mixed signals” at that September meeting, when she became emotional and told the team that she “has known Larry for many, many years and he is an absolutely phenomenal doctor and she did not believe that any of the allegations against him had any truth…[and] she would feel comfortable right then sending her own daughter or granddaughter to Dr. Nassar.”
Klages also told police she “recalls saying something to the girls about not texting about Nassar,” and “if we get dragged into this the police might look at their phones.”
This investigation shows there were “at best ambiguous, if not inappropriate comments [at that meeting,] not only from Coach Kathie Klages, but also from MSU staff,” says attorney Jamie White. White represents former MSU gymnast Lindsey Lemke, who was abused by Nassar and claimed MSU staff sought her out after the meeting to say her phone would be checked.
Police questioned Klages about reports of Nassar’s abuse
At the time of this 2017 investigation, only one woman had come forward to say she told Coach Kathie Klages about Nassar’s sexual abuse back in 1997: Larissa Boyce has since gone public with her story, but was only speaking anonymously to reporters at the time this MSU PD investigation into the gymnastics team meeting.
When police confronted Klages about Boyce’s story, they asked if she “recalls anybody disclosing any abuse by Larry Nassar to her.” Klages told them she’d seen “the anonymous woman on television who gave the interview” but couldn’t recall such a report.
“I have beat myself up trying to remember but I have no idea,” Klages told police.
However, Klages also told police that did get a call on January 10, 2017 from a gymnast she’d known for several years. (That gymnast’s name is redacted from the police report.)
Klages says this gymnast “disclosed to her that Dr. Nassar had abused [her] and that they were seeking legal representation and were going to eventually file a police report.” Klages told this victim that she was a mandatory reporter and would have to notify the school, and asked “if Dr. Nassar had penetrated [the victim] vaginally, to which she said 'no.'”
From the police report:
“Klages told me she then told [the victim] to research the medical procedures that Dr. Nassar was using to become educated as they move forward. Klages admitted to me that she probably shouldn’t have asked about the vaginal penetration and she now regrets doing so.”
Klages was suspended from MSU in February 2017, and announced her retirement the following day. In a statement issued through her attorney at the time, Klages said she:
“…would never do anything to put [team members] in harm’s way. Dr. Nassar was trusted by Ms. Klages to competently and ethically treat her team members. Had she ever received any information to cast doubt on the appropriateness of that trust in Dr. Nassar, she would have reacted immediately to protect her gymnasts.”
A request for comment from Michigan State University was not immediately returned.