Statement on the Michigan Court of Appeals Ruling Regarding Kathie Klages (UPDATED)

Update (Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022): On Sept. 21, 2022, the Michigan Supreme Court turned down an appeal and announced it will not reinstate the conviction of former Michigan State University gymnastics coach Kathie Klages. The Army of Survivors would like to express its disappointment in this decision, and we will continue to push for accountability in all cases of sexual abuse in sports.

(Originally published Dec. 23, 2021): The Army of Survivors has issued the following statement in response to the Michigan Court of Appeals throwing out former Michigan State University gymnastics coach Kathie Klages’ conviction of lying to police, as reported by the Lansing State Journal.

We are appalled by the Court of Appeals ruling that Klages’ lies to the police were not material to the AG’s 2018 investigation, and therefore not unlawful. As an organization founded by survivors of abuse by Larry Nassar whose commitment is to work toward ending sexual violence in sports, this ruling sends a frightening message to enablers: they can lie to police and not be held criminally accountable.

The judges wrote “Criminal investigations … are intended to investigate crimes, not to punish or expose poor institutional decision-making.” To that, The Army of Survivors would like to respond: how is lying about sexual assault classified as “poor decision-making”? It is criminal, and should be acknowledged as such. 

Although Klages was not a mandated reporter in 1997 when she was told about the abuse by two gymnasts, all coaches and authority figures have a moral obligation to report instances of misconduct and abuse. This is especially imperative when the accused perpetrator is working with those athletes on a regular basis, as was the case in this instance. 

If Klages had immediately reported the abuse, many of the more than 500 known survivors could have been spared the trauma of sexual abuse. So again, we ask: how is lying about sexual assault classified as “poor decision-making”? The impact of the abuse she enabled will last lifetimes, and citing her actions as a poor decision minimizes the impact of her failure to the athletes.

Our thoughts are with the survivors who experienced sexual abuse by the aforementioned perpetrator. We would like to extend our deepest concern for the survivors who in 2018 came forward in court at their own expense and experienced retraumatization in the fight for justice, as well as those who took the stand in 2020 to testify against Klages. You are worthy, we stand with you, and we believe you.