A Texas prosecutor has decided not to prosecute former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny for tampering with evidence related to the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal.
Walker County District Attorney Will Durham’s decision not to prosecute Penny comes 3½ years after Penny was arrested by a U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force at a Tennessee resort after a large a Texas jury indicted him for tampering with criminal evidence.
“The indictment further alleges that the suppression of the documents was carried out for the purpose of harming the ongoing investigation by destroying or concealing the documents,” the Walker County prosecutor’s office said in a statement. disclosed at the time of Penny’s arrest.
Penny, who claimed her innocence, could have faced 2 to 10 years in prison.
Durham made the decision not to prosecute Penny without consulting or informing the dozens of women Nassar, the former U.S. Olympic and national team doctor, who was sexually assaulted during national team training camps at a ranch owned by to former Olympic and national team managers Martha and Bela Karolyi in remote central Texas, according to a lawyer who represents at least five Olympic champions.
“The idea that (Durham) would make a decision like this without consulting with these victims, with the families, without calls, without emails is shameful,” said John Manly, an Orange County attorney who represents hundreds of Nassar survivors, including Olympic champion Simone. Biles and world champion Maggie Nichol, who told Penny and USA Gymnastics about her abuse by Nassar in June 2015, 16 months before the scandal became public.
“The reason why (Durham) didn’t reach out is clear – the decision doesn’t make sense,” Manly continued. “If I was Will Durham I’d be ashamed of myself. He didn’t have the decency to call the victims or me and that’s about the lowest I’ve ever seen. Now I have to call my clients and explain this decision and I can’t explain it.
Durham, who was not the prosecutor at the time of Penny’s arrest, told the Houston Chronicle there was no evidence for the case to go to trial.
“A large number of documents (and possibly all of them previously deleted) were subsequently returned to Walker County upon request,” Durham told the Chronicle, which was first to report on Durham’s decision. “Without sufficient evidence that these records have been changed or altered and are permanently protected from discovery or observation, pursuant to the appeals decision interpreting Texas tampering law, our office decided that the matter. .. should not be prosecuted.”
Durham did not respond to a request for comment.
USA Gymnastics national teams manager Amy White, on orders from Penny, removed several boxes of medical records and other documents relevant to the Nassar investigation from the Karolyi Ranch in November 2016, according to documents obtained by the Southern. California News Group.
Rhonda Faehn, former vice president of USA Gymnastics for the women’s program, said in a sworn deposition that White confided in her that Penny called her and told her to remove the files from Karolyi Ranch and bring them to headquarters. of USA Gymnastics in Indianapolis.
White told Faehn that after she returned to headquarters “she gave them to Steve Penny,” Faehn said referring to medical records.
White was assisted in removing the documents by Gary Warren, who ran the Karolyi Ranch for USA Gymnastics.
White asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination at least 130 times during a November 2018 deposition in the federal lawsuit of Olympic champion Aly Raisman against USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee, Nassar and several others senior USA Gymnastics officials and coaches. The deposition is part of more than 1,000 pages of documents including deposition transcripts, emails, letters, memos, contracts related to the Raisman lawsuit that provide a roadmap of actions taken by officials of USA Gymnastics to prevent authorities and the public from abusing Nassar and its scope. .
The documents also point out that senior USA Gymnastics officials were aware of and concerned about sexual abuse in sports for decades and how later the organization’s top doctor failed to report Nassar, even after witnessing his abuse. abuse.
“Penny told his staff not to let the Texas Rangers into the ranch, then immediately sent his staff there,” Manly said. “He did it because he didn’t want (the Rangers) to find any evidence. He hid it (from the Rangers) and took it to another state. That’s not how it should be done. »
Manly said he felt Durham misled him in a series of conversations.
“Over the past four years, my office and my clients have spent countless hours interviewing survivors, providing you with materials, giving interviews and answering questions, all with the promise that you would bring Mr Penny to justice,” Manly wrote in a letter to Durham. “At no time did you suggest to me or my clients that you did not have the evidence to try Mr. Penny. On the contrary, you have reiterated to us that you consider the case to be solid and important to judge in view of the damage caused by Mr. Penny’s conduct.
“Will, I last spoke to you a few months ago and you thought the Penny trial would start in June. At no point did you suggest that Penny actually returned the documents at issue (which you and I both know to be complete nonsense). Moreover, at no time did you indicate any hesitation in trying the case.
The Karolyi Ranch is no longer used for US Olympic or National training camps.
“The only bright spot here is that, thanks to Simone Biles and many others, American gymnasts no longer train at this house of horrors in Walker County,” Manly wrote in Durham. “At least the inaction, malfeasance and indifference to the truth of you and your predecessors can no longer hurt them.”