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Former MSU gymnastics coach sentenced to 3 months for role in Larry Nassar scandal

It will be three months in prison for Kathie Klages, the former Michigan State gymnastics coach, who back in 1997 had two teens come to her with allegations against Larry Nassar and did nothing more than launch a crude investigation that confused the kids and emboldened Nassar.

It will be three months in prison for Kathie Klages, who had a chance to stop this monster early, before the victims tallied into the hundreds, ranging from mid-Michigan youth to some of the most decorated Olympians of all time. 

It will be three months in prison for Kathie Klages, and she should spend every day of it not wallowing in her misery or cursing her fate, but thanking her luck that 89 days (she has credit for one day already served) is all she'll do.

The statute of limitations on her inaction had long ago run out. Prosecutors could only charge and convict her of two counts of lying to the police during a 2018 interview when she said she was never told a thing about Nassar possibly molesting young girls. She could have received four years.

Nassar is in prison forever, the 56-year-old facing hundreds of years for his reign of terror, which includes a federal child pornography conviction.

Klages, 65, will presumably walk free again. 

Three months ... for all of this. 

For Nassar’s survivors who wondered how he could operate for so long, the sentence is at least recognition that someone could have done something and they will pay some price for their failure.

“I feel like I can breathe,” Larissa Boyce told reporters Tuesday outside of the Ingham County courtroom where Klages was sentenced. “I feel like I can finally move forward, and past all of this."

Boyce was the first to stand up and speak out against Nassar. Boyce was the first one to voice concern that this beloved doctor might not be what everyone thought he was. Boyce was the first to tell the truth ... only to be convinced it was a lie. 

It was 1997 and she was just 16 years old, competing in the Spartan Youth Gymnastics program in East Lansing, Michigan. Klages was the club’s director while also serving as head coach at MSU.

There was little Boyce wanted more than to win the favor of Klages and then go on to compete collegiately for her. 

It made Boyce's decision to tell on Nassar even more difficult, more terrifying. Boyce was an inexperienced teen, but she knew, deep down, that the work on her injured back that Nassar was supposedly giving her was nothing more than twice-weekly sexual assaults. 

Just saying that out loud would take courage. Nassar was a close friend to Klages and worked at both MSU and the gymnastics club. He was also a famed doctor with Team USA, and had, just a year before, fixed Kerri Strugg’s ankle up enough for one final gold medal vault at the Atlanta Olympics. 

He was everything. She was nothing. A scared, confused kid, just the way Nassar liked them. 

She told anyway. She told Kathie Klages. 

What followed was a tragedy, not just for Boyce but the waves of Nassar victims that followed. Klages was dismissive. Even when a second young gymnast, just 14, alleged the same thing, she took Nassar’s side.

“She said, ‘Well, I’ve known Larry for years and years, there’s no way he would do anything inappropriate,’” Boyce, now a mother of five, testified last February. “And I said, ‘Well, that isn’t what is happening for me.’”

Former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar appears in court for his final sentencing on Feb. 5, 2018. (Rena Laverty/AFP/Getty Images)

Klages warned about the gravity of the allegation and the impact it would have not just on Nassar … but Boyce. She then brought other gymnasts into her office and with Boyce present asked if they too had been molested. Boyce was humiliated. 

“I wanted to crawl in a hole and die,” she testified.

Finally, Klages had Boyce sit for a one-on-one meeting with Nassar, where the doctor explained how the kid had it all wrong. Soon she was questioning herself, even wondering if there was something perverse about her that made her think an innocent treatment was sexual in nature. 

“I thought, ‘I must have a dirty mind. What’s wrong with me?’” Boyce testified.

She had to live with all of it for decades, a double barrel of abuse until a floodgate of accusers came forward and Boyce was proven, at long last, correct.

Back in 1997, though, police were never called. Sexual assault experts were never called. Boyce's parents were never called. No one was ever called.

Nassar continued, more confident than ever that he could manipulate his way out of anything. Klages did too, leading MSU until retiring in 2017 as the Nassar case broke. Klages said Tuesday at sentencing that she just can’t remember what Boyce says she can’t forget. Klages noted she sent friends and family to Nassar, which she certainly wouldn’t have done if she thought he was a predator. 

“If it did occur, and I responded the way they said I did, I am truly horrified,” Klages said at sentencing, where she repeatedly wept. “And I am so sorry. I cannot imagine that I would not take seriously the concerns raised.”

Ninety days. Just 90 days. But still...

“I hope the fact that she got jail time deters other people and that people truly believe children and women who come forward with allegations of assault,” Larissa Boyce told reporters Tuesday. “That they truly stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves.”

Larissa Boyce did stand up all those years ago. And after all these years of being told she was wrong, after all these years of suppressing the truth, just being proven right counts. 

Kathie Klages is going away, better late and better short, than never. 

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