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AG Nessel Provides Update on Klages, Simon Cases
February 15, 2022
LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court (MSC) today in response to a Court of Appeals (COA) opinion that erred in reversing the conviction of former Michigan State University Coach Kathie Klages. Nessel is also sharing an update related to the Department's case against former Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon.
On Dec. 21, the Michigan COA reversed the Klages conviction, ruling that there was insufficient evidence that she made a false or misleading statement to the police that was material to its investigation into convicted predator Larry Nassar and Michigan State University's handling of abuse allegations. She was sentenced in Aug. 2020 after a jury found her guilty of lying about when she first learned of the abuse.
Nessel's application, filed late Monday afternoon, notes that, "[u]nder the standard criminal jury instructions, a material fact is one that would 'influence an officer's decision how to proceed with an investigation,'... But according to the majority decision of the [COA] below, that is no longer a correct statement of the law. Now the [COA] has added a requirement - not in the statute - that the prosecution must show that the false or misleading statement affected the charging decision, not just the investigation. This Court's review is necessary. This mistake will affect all future police investigations, and it affects the outcome of this case... The testimony was clear at trial that [Klages'] lies hindered the investigation in two ways: (1) by blocking further questions of Klages and the Department's investigation into the actions she took based on these 1997 disclosures, and (2) by hindering the investigation of others to whom she confided the abuse. But given Klages' false statements, the Department's investigation into whether she or other officials or employees helped Nassar and shielded him from detection was stymied. Nassar's conduct harming young women continued for another 20 years before it finally was identified by law enforcement officials and stopped. The jury rightly convicted Klages of making false statements that were material to the Attorney General's investigation conducted by its special agents."
"The COA's decision could set a harmful precedent for future cases and must be taken up by the MSC," Nessel said. "We are asking the Court to reverse the ruling and reinstate the conviction or adopt Judge Borrello's dissent that properly found her false statements were essential to our investigation."
Also in December, the COA affirmed the dismissal of charges against Simon.
In 2018, a district court judge determined that Simon should stand trial before a jury of her peers on several counts of lying to police. Subsequently, the circuit court quashed the bindover, holding the evidence was insufficient to present to a jury. The Attorney General's office filed an appeal brief in the COA, leading to the December opinion.
While Nessel remains confident in the case built and presented against the former head of MSU, the COA's opinion will not be appealed.
"The only judge that actually saw the witnesses, and heard the evidence directly, found the evidence presented against President Simon established probable cause that she knew about the allegations and that she purposely provided evasive, misleading, and dishonest answers to the Department of Attorney General's investigators," Nessel said. "As the voice for survivors across the state, we always prioritize a victim-centered approach. To that end, we understand a long appellate process is not always the best way we can support survivors."
One survivor involved in these cases, Amanda Thomashow, provided the following statement:
"There is no justice in a system that compounds the pain of the very victims it relies on while simultaneously allowing the people that cause large scale harm to skirt accountably. Not only am I haunted by what happened back in 2014 and horrified by how many people involved in the case were also convicted (or investigated) for sexual misconduct, but I am also now scarred by the trauma of having to testify in court and still not be believed. I had to read the notes of the woman that I reported my sexual assault to-on the stand-and answer questions about that sexual assault in front of strangers-just to be told it doesn't actually matter, years later. I am terrified that if bad things happen to me again-even if I report it, even if I do everything right, that will also not matter. I am now a shell of the person I could have been without this kind of suffering.
But I know the truth, and it is no less true today than it ever was. I also now know the current system lacks viable avenues to healing, accountability, or justice-as we have seen time and time again, and we all deserve better."
The Department respectfully asks that Thomashow's statement be used in lieu of contacting her directly for comment.