A scathing report from the inspector general inside the Justice Department released on Wednesday found the F.B.I. greatly mishandled the sexual abuse case involving former Team USA national gymnastics and Michigan State Sports doctor Larry Nassar. Those mistakes, the report determined, may have led to Nassar continuing to victimize dozens of girls and young women.
The watchdog report raises serious questions about how the FBI handled the case and highlighted serious missteps between the time the allegations were first reported and Nassar’s arrest. At least 40 girls and women, and perhaps as many as 120, said they were molested over a 14-months while the FBI was aware of sex abuse allegations against Nassar. The Bureau first received complaints against Nassar in 2015. But officials at USA Gymnastics contacted FBI officials in Los Angeles in May 2016 after not hearing a word from agents in Indianapolis for eight months.
USA Gymnastics had been conducting its own internal investigation and then the organization’s then-president, Stephen Penny, reported the allegations to the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis. But it took months before the bureau opened a formal investigation.
From The Associated Press:
The inspector general’s office found that “despite the extraordinarily serious nature” of the allegations against Nassar, FBI officials in Indianapolis did not respond with the “utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required.” When they did respond, the report said, FBI officials made “numerous and fundamental errors” and also violated bureau policies. Among the missteps was a failure to conduct any investigative activity until more than a month after a meeting with USA Gymnastics. Agents interviewed by phone one of three athletes, but never spoke with two other gymnasts despite being told they were available to meet. The watchdog investigation also found that when the FBI’s Indianapolis field office’s handling of the matter came under scrutiny, officials there did not take any responsibility for the missteps and gave incomplete and inaccurate information to internal FBI inquiries.
Nassar, currently serving a 100-year prison sentence, has been accused of abusing hundreds of female patients — including Olympic champion Simone Biles and a majority of the last two United States women’s Olympic gymnastics teams — under the guise of medical treatment. Michigan State University agreed to a $500 million settlement with Nassar’s victims in 2018.
The FBI released a statement that admitted serious errors in its investigative process.
“The FBI has taken affirmative steps to ensure and has confirmed that those responsible for the misconduct and breach of trust no longer work FBI matters. We will take all necessary steps to ensure that the failures of the employees outlined in the Report do not happen again.”