Around 90 women, including United States gold medal gymnasts Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and McKayla Maroney, are suing the FBI for its handling of the Larry Nassar case, according to the Associated Press.
The women seek more than $1 billion from the government agency for failing to investigate Nassar when allegations first surfaced in 2015 that he was sexually assaulting gymnasts. The United States Department of Justice outlined the FBI’s negligence in its investigation in a report this past summer but decided not to charge the two former agents for their mishandling of the case.
The survivors reached a $380 million settlement in December with USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee for their role in the years of neglect and abuse at the hands of Nassar.
Nassar, 58, is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison in Florida on child pornography charges and was also sentenced to 175 years in prison in Michigan after pleading guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual misconduct. His crimes span decades and the list of survivors include at least 300 women and girls during his time as a doctor for Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics.
The FBI’s failures with the Nassar case
According to the original DOJ report, Nassar’s survivors filed complaints as early as 1997, when Nassar worked as a team doctor for the Michigan State gymnastics team. USA Gymnastics turned over three new complaints to the FBI’s Indianapolis office in 2015 when Nassar worked as a team doctor for USAG. Nassar wasn’t arrested until the fall of 2016.
The DOJ found that the FBI “failed to respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required, made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond to them, and violated multiple FBI policies” and only interviewed one of the complainants over the phone without talking with the others. The report included several other instances of incompetence, which more or less insinuated the FBI didn’t take the allegations or its investigation into Nassar seriously.
Biles and Maroney both spoke about the abject failures of the institutions put in place to protect them and other women when they testified in front of Congress this past September. Biles blamed Nassar first and foremost, but also placed blame on USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee as well as the FBI.
“I believe without a doubt that the circumstances that led to my abuse and allowed it to continue, are directly the result of the fact that the organizations created by Congress to oversee and protect me as an athlete – USA Gymnastics (USAG) and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) – failed to do their jobs,” Biles said.
“… We suffered and continue to suffer because no one at the FBI, USAG, or the USOPC did what was necessary to protect us. We have failed, and we deserve answers. Nassar is where he belongs, but those who enabled him to deserve to be held accountable. If they are not, I am convinced that this will continue to happen to others – across Olympic sports. In reviewing the OIG’s Report, it truly feels like the FBI turned a blind eye to us and went out of its way to help protect USAG and the USOPC. A message needs to be sent: If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe. Enough is enough.”
Maroney, meanwhile, recounted the FBI’s negligence when she first was asked to speak to the FBI about the Nassar case.
“I remember sitting on my bedroom floor for nearly three hours, as I told them what had happened to me over the phone. … I thought and trusted that they would act quickly for the sake of other girls. I waited, and I waited and heard nothing. They betrayed me, they betrayed my trust, and they sat idly by, as dozens of girls and women continued to be molested by Larry Nassar. According to the OIG Report, about 17 months after I disclosed my abuse to FBI agents (nearly a year and a half later), the FBI agent who interviewed me in 2015, decided to write down my “statement”; a statement that the OIG Report determined to be “materially false.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray apologized to the survivors following Biles’ and several others’ testimony.
“I’m deeply and profoundly sorry to each and every one of you,” Wray said. “I’m sorry for what you and your families have been through. I’m sorry so many people let you down over and over again. And I’m especially sorry there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed, and that is inexcusable. It never should have happened, and we’re doing everything in our power to make sure it never happens again.”