Gymnast says she was pressured to skip Nassar complaint

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Defense attorney Takura Nyamfukudza listens to opening statements from the prosecution during the trial of ex-MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, at Veterans Memorial Courthouse in Lansing, Mich. Klages is charged with lying to investigators in connection with sexual assault complaints against sports doctor Larry Nassar. (Anntaninna Biondo /Lansing State Journal via AP)

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A woman testified Tuesday that she reported abuse by sports doctor Larry Nassar in 1997 but backed off and even apologized after being pressured by a Michigan State University gymnastics coach.

Larissa Boyce said Kathie Klages warned her that any complaints about Nassar could cause trouble. She said she convinced herself that she misunderstood what Nassar was doing with his hands during treatments for injuries.

“I said, ‘I’m sorry, it’s all my fault,’” said Boyce, who was 16 years old in 1997. “And so I hopped back up on his table and I continued to be abused by him.”

Klages is on trial in Ingham County court, charged with lying in 2018 to police who were investigating what Michigan State officials knew about Nassar long before scandal emerged in 2016. Klages denied knowing that Boyce and another teen had complained to her.

“Please remember, ladies and gentlemen, this is a case about memory. Kathie Klages’ memory,” defense attorney Takura Nyamfukudza told jurors during his opening statement. “It doesn’t matter what the government thinks she should have remembered.”

Klages suddenly retired as gymnastics coach in 2017, a day after she was suspended for defending Nassar to her team.

More than 300 victims, mostly young women and girls, say Nassar molested them under the guise of treatment for back problems and other injuries. He worked at Michigan State and USA Gymnastics and also saw athletes who were referred to him.

Nyamfukudza said Michigan prosecutors apparently weren’t satisfied with Nassar’s decadeslong sentences for assault and decided to pursue others, including Klages.

But Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark said Klages denied recalling complaints about Nassar because she wanted to protect herself.

“Telling the truth matters,” Hagaman-Clark said in her opening statement. “Telling the truth when it is the most difficult matters.”

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