LANSING, Mich. — A lawyer for a former Michigan State University gymnastics coach suggested Thursday that politics played a role in the charges filed against her in the Larry Nassar sexual-assault scandal.
Kathie Klages, 63, appeared in court by video a week after she was charged with lying to investigators. She's accused of denying that female gymnasts had ever complained of assaults by Nassar. Authorities said two teens complained to her back in 1997.
Nassar was the doctor for the women's team at the time. He also treated gymnasts in the Lansing area and Olympians at USA Gymnastics. He's been sentenced to decades in prison for sexual assault and child pornography crimes.
The Nassar investigation is being supervised by the Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's office. Schuette is also the Republican nominee for governor.
"I think for the AG, Larry Nassar and anyone associated to him is the gift that keeps on giving," Klages' lawyer, Takura Nyamfukudza, told reporters after the court hearing. "We're just a few months away from election season and I think the timing is very interesting. Again, we have great confidence in the justice system that very soon Ms. Klages' name will be cleared."
In response, Schuette spokeswoman Andrea Bitely said politics had no role.
"We allege that the defendant lied to a police officer and it has nothing to do with politics," she said.
Klages was coach for nearly 30 years before she suddenly retired in February 2017, a day after a suspension.
Mark Hollis, who was athletic director at the time, said he suspended Klages after learning about her "passionate defense" of Nassar during a meeting with gymnasts. The meeting took place months earlier in September 2016, around the time Nassar was fired by Michigan State.