The Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general published a report Wednesday which found that the FBI Indiana field office was grossly negligent when handling the case of Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics physician convicted of multiple sexual abuse charges. The report also found failures at the FBI offices in Portland, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Maine.
Nassar is serving an effective life sentence in prison. He pleaded guilty to 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual contact, three counts of child pornography charges, and seven counts of criminal sexual conduct. Over 150 survivors provided moving testimonies in court that detailed his coercion and abuse. His case received nationwide attention, as he was once a renowned osteopathic physician who treated thousands of gymnasts, including gymnasts for the U.S. Olympic teams.
The DOJ reported that the FBI’s Indianapolis office omitted significant information and made false statements in a 2017 report. The report found that W. Jay Abbott, the agent in charge of the office, lied to an investigator and made “materially false statements” during interviews “to minimize errors made by the Indianapolis Field Office.”
The report stated that Abbott violated FBI policy when speaking with Steve Penny, then president and chief executive of USA Gymnastics, about potential job opportunities with the U.S. Olympic Committee. He reportedly lied twice to the inspector general about seeking out those opportunities.
In 2015, FBI officials in Indianapolis did not respond to the allegations made against Nassar for eight months, and the FBI did not proceed with the investigation until after the Indianapolis Star published an article detailing Nassar’s abuse. The FBI reportedly made fundamental errors like failing to notify state and local authorities and failing to notify the proper FBI office.
John Manly, an attorney for more than 250 survivors of Nassar, said that while the FBI sat on the investigation, 120 more women and girls were abused between July 2015 and when Nassar was exposed.
Grace French is a Nassar survivor and founder and president of The Army of Survivors, an organization dedicated to keeping child athletes safe from abuse. She said, “It’s obvious that the FBI failed survivors in all of this. They put financial gain and the possibility of an opportunity for future employment in front of athletes, of children, of survivors — and that’s incredibly disappointing to me.”
Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Jerry Moran, who both worked on a 2019 Senate investigation of negligence by the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics, responded to the report by suggesting the Senate conduct hearings to hold the FBI accountable. Blumenthal described the report as “absolutely chilling” and Moran asserted that the FBI’s handling of accusations was “woefully inadequate.”