Nassar victims sue FBI over early investigation failures

Nassar victims sue FBI over early investigation failures
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WASHINGTON — More than 90 women who say they were sexually assaulted by Lawrence G. Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor who was convicted of sexual abuse by the state, filed lawsuits against the FBI on Wednesday for not investigating him when he received credible information. information about his crimes.

The lawsuits come two weeks after the Justice Department decided not to proceed two former FBI agents accused of bungling the bureau’s 2015 investigation into Mr. Nassar, allowing him to assault more than 70 girls and women over more than a year before Michigan authorities arrested him.

The officers were charged by the Justice Department’s own watchdog to make false statements about it. In the fall, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray told Congress that “there were people in the FBI who had their chance to stop this monster in 2015 and failed.”

The Justice Department said it would not prosecute officers involved in what Mr. Wray called “gross misconduct” because there was insufficient evidence to bring a federal criminal action.

The plaintiffs include Olympic gymnastics gold medalists Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney and national gymnastics medalist Maggie Nichols, as well as former University of Michigan gymnast Samantha Roy and former gymnast Michigan State University Kaylee Lorincz, who now works as an advocate for sexual assault victims.

“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,” Ms Maroney said in a statement. “It is clear that the only path to justice and healing is through the legal process,” she added.

The plaintiffs are seeking varying amounts of damages, but their total claims will exceed $1 billion, their attorney, John C. Manly, said in a statement.

Mr Nassar, who was sentenced to 175 years in prison, was accused of assaulting hundreds of girls and women, including many members of the 2012 and 2016 US Olympic gymnastics teams.

The FBI Indianapolis Field Office received evidence of his crimes in 2015. Officers then interviewed gymnasts, including Ms. Maroney, who provided detailed testimony. In the end, they took no action to expedite the investigation or arrest Mr. Nassar, who continued to treat dozens of patients, including those from Michigan State; Twistars Gymnastics Club in Dimondale, Michigan; and Holt High School in Michigan.

The FBI also failed to notify state or local law enforcement of the child abuse charges against Mr. Nassar, according to the Justice Department’s inspector general, who last summer published a report on the FBI’s mishandling of the case, nearly five years after Mr. Nassar was arrested on federal child pornography charges. His arrest stems from an investigation by the Michigan State University Police Department after a 16-year-old came forward about his abuse.

The Inspector General accused W. Jay Abbott, who was in charge of the Indianapolis office’s field office, and Michael Langeman, an agent in that office, of making false statements to investigators investigating how they and other FBI members handled the Nassar case.

Mr Langeman was fired two weeks before Ms Biles, Ms Maroney, Ms Raisman and Ms Nichols provided poignant testimony to Congress on the FBI’s handling of the Nassar case. Among Mr. Langeman’s missteps was the 17-month wait to document his interview with Ms. Maroney, the first victim of Mr. Nassar to be interviewed by the FBI.

In September 2015, two months after the bureau learned of Mr. Nassar’s actions from USA Gymnastics, Mr. Langeman interviewed her in a three-hour phone call.

Ms Maroney was 19 and had not even told her mother that Mr Nassar had sexually abused her for many years, starting when she was 13, including for hours twice a day at the Games of London, where Mrs. Maroney won a gold medal. In her congressional testimony, Ms. Maroney recalled that Mr. Langeman concluded the interview by saying, “Is that all?

According to Ms. Maroney, Mr. Langeman’s late report, filed in 2017, contained several false statements, including that Mr. Nassar had penetrated her anally and that it had helped reduce her back pain.

The report also states that Ms Nichols and Ms Raisman declined to be interviewed by the FBI, which they claim is not true.

“They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not just me but countless others,” Ms Maroney told Congress in September.

In a report published last summerthe inspector general said that Mr. Abbott, who retired from the FBI during the investigation, made false statements “to downplay errors made by the Indianapolis field office in handling the Nassar allegations “.

He also said Mr. Abbott spoke to USA Gymnastics about potential job opportunities as he questioned the organization about the allegations against Mr. Nassar, actions that violated FBI policy.

Credit…Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal, via AP

The inspector general’s report says the FBI mishandled witness interviews and failed to share credible information about the abuses with relevant authorities.

It also found that Mr. Nassar sexually abused 70 or more athletes between July 2015, when USA Gymnastics first reported allegations against him to the FBI field office in Indianapolis, and August 2016, when the police department of Michigan State University received a separate complaint.

The women who are suing the FBI say they were abused during this time.

“If the FBI had just done their job,” Ms. Roy said in a statement, “Nassar would have been arrested before he even had the chance to abuse hundreds of girls, including me.

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