Gymnasts Sue FBI for $1 Billion Over Mishandling of Larry Nassar Case

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A group of 90 women that includes former US Olympic team gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman have filed a lawsuit against the FBI, alleging it mishandled its investigation into the former team doctor American Larry Nassar, allowing him to continue sexually abusing them even after reporting it to the bureau in 2015.

The women are collectively demanding more than $1 billion from the FBI in a lawsuit filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, a 1946 law that makes the United States liable for injuries “caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any government employee acting in the course of his duty or employment.” They join 13 others who in April filed a similar complaint against the FBI, citing a July report by the Justice Department’s inspector general that found the bureau failed to properly investigate serious allegations of sexual abuse against Nassar.

“The FBI knew Larry Nassar was a danger to children when his abuse of me was first reported in September 2015. For 421 days they worked with USA Gymnastics and USOPC to hide this information from the public and allowed Nassar to continue assaulting young women. and the girls. It’s time the FBI was held accountable,” former Team USA gymnast Maggie Nichols said in a statement released by attorneys representing the women’s group.

The FBI declined to comment, referring to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray speech before the Senate Judiciary Committee manufactured in September 2021.

The Justice Department report found that USA Gymnastics contacted the FBI field office in Indianapolis in July 2015 about the allegations against Nassar, but that office’s inaction led USA Gymnastics to report Nassar again in May 2016. at an FBI field office in Los Angeles. This office put more work into an investigation but took no action against Nassar.

According to the report, Nassar victimized approximately 70 women and girls between when the FBI first learned of the allegations and when Michigan officials arrested him in the fall of 2016 based on separate information. .

Inspector General Michael Horowitz found that “senior FBI field office officials in Indianapolis failed to respond to Nassar’s allegations with the seriousness and urgency they deserved and required, made numerous errors fundamentals when they responded to them and violated multiple FBI policies” before trying to blame others when faced with their shortcomings.

In a September 15 Senate hearing, four gymnasts condemned the FBI’s handling of the investigation into coach Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse allegations. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

After the inspector general’s report, which the FBI accepted, the agency released several statements in which it called its actions “inexcusable and a discredit to this organization” and said “it would not have had to happen”. However, the FBI announced late last month that the agents who mishandled the Nassar investigation would not be charged with a crime. The FBI fired one of the agents in September, while the other retired pending the Justice Department investigation. Both were found to have lied about their role in the Nassar case to federal investigators.

“My fellow survivors and I have been betrayed by every institution meant to protect us – the US Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, the FBI and now the Department of Justice. I had some hope that they would keep their word and hold the FBI accountable after we poured our hearts out to the US Senate Judiciary Committee and demanded justice. It is clear that the only path to justice and healing is through the legal process,” Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney said in the statement.

In a letter Wednesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) criticized the Justice Department’s decision not to prosecute the special agents. Wicker, a ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, called the decision “flagrant,” adding that it “seriously calls into question the Department’s judgment.” I am particularly concerned that this lack of accountability will further erode trust in law enforcement among victims of sexual abuse, making it less likely that abuse will be reported in the future.

“The right of Olympic athletes to compete and train in an environment free from abuse of any kind is of the utmost importance. In this case, young women, mostly minors, were sexually abused by someone responsible for their care and well-being,” Wicker wrote.

Wicker called on the Justice Department to brief the commerce committee on its review process and answer a series of questions by June 22.


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