Larry Nassar lawsuit: FBI seeks to settle with gymnasts, people familiar with situation say


Comment

After a year of intense criticism for its failure to aggressively investigate a former USA Gymnastics doctor for sexual abuse of his young patients, the FBI has contacted lawyers for the gymnasts and others to try to settle lawsuit claims against the agency, according to people familiar with the matter.

The move comes less than two months after a group of 90 women, including former US Olympic team gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman, sued the FBI, collectively seeking more than $1 billion. Thirteen others filed a similar lawsuit in April, citing a 2021 report by the Justice Department inspector general that found significant failures in how the bureau handled allegations against Larry Nassar, former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University team doctor.

A senior FBI lawyer recently wrote to attorneys for the plaintiffs, according to two people familiar with the correspondence, saying: “We are reviewing these claims and are interested in considering all options to reaching a resolution, including settlement discussions.” The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.

A spokesperson for a law firm representing many of the women said they were aware of the victim and declined to comment further. A spokeswoman for the FBI declined to comment on pending litigation.

FBI failed to pursue Nassar allegations, Justice Dept. inspector general exists

Separately, on Thursday, the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division briefed senators on why the department decided not to charge any former FBI officials for what the inspector general concluded were false statements about their conduct during the Nassar investigation.

The Justice Department official, Kenneth A. Polite Jr., said prosecutors did not think the evidence could prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, said people familiar with the discussion, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a closed meeting.

Late. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said the FBI “again refused to provide underlying information to support their assumption that a jury wouldn’t convict their agents for botching the Nassar investigation, then trying to cover their tracks. … They should provide Congress more evidence to support their prosecution declination or let a jury decide whether laws were broken, like they do for everybody else.”

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

According to the report, Nassar victimized about 70 women and girls between the time when the FBI was first told of the allegations and when Michigan officials arrested him in the fall of 2016 on the basis of separate information. Nassar is now serving an effective life sentence in prison.

Simone Biles: ‘I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system’

Inspector General Michael Horowitz found that “senior officials in the FBI Indianapolis Field Office 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” before attempting to blame others when confronted with their shortcomings.

He also found that in late 2015, the head of the FBI’s Indianapolis office, Jay Abbott, talked to Stephen Penny, then president of USA Gymnastics, about getting Abbott a job with the Olympic Committee. The inspector general said Abbott applied for the job but did not get it, and when confronted about it later, falsely claimed to have not applied for the job.

After accepting the inspector general’s report, the FBI issued multiple statements calling the bureau’s actions “inexcusable and a discredit to this organization” and saying that “this should not have happened.”

The FBI fired one agent in September; the other who came under scrutiny decided to retire during the Justice Department’s investigation. The inspector general said there was evidence that both lied about their roles in the Nassar case to federal investigators.

“My fellow survivors and I were betrayed by every institution that was supposed to protect us — the US Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, the FBI and now the Department of Justice,” Maroney, a member of the 2012 Olympic team, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “It is clear that the only path to justice and healing is through the legal process.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.