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IG: FBI Agents Mishandled Allegations Against Gymnastics National Team Doctor Larry Nassar

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Reporter
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Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials repeatedly violated agency policies while responding to sexual abuse allegations against disgraced U.S. gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, an Inspector General (IG) report found.

Investigative “failures by Indianapolis [FBI] officials contributed to a delay [in investigating Nassar] of over a year,” Department of Justice (DOJ) IG Michael Horowitz wrote in a report released Wednesday. Nassar was sentenced in 2017 to 60 years in prison for possession of child pornography, and 40-175 years in prison in 2018 for sexual assault. He molested more than 150 female gymnasts, including some of the sport’s biggest stars.

“Senior officials in the FBI Indianapolis Field Office failed to respond to the… Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that the allegations deserved and required, made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond to them, and failed to notify state or local authorities of the allegations or take other steps to mitigate the ongoing threat,” Horowitz wrote.

In particular, Indianapolis field agents, who received the first complaint against Nassar in 2015, did not notify state or local authorities that he was under investigation. They also did not notify agents in Lansing, Michigan, where Nassar was employed by Michigan State University (MSU). MSU and FBI agents in Lansing did not learn of the accusations against Nassar until 2016, when a gymnast reported an alleged sexual assault to the school. (RELATED: Larry Nassar Victims Reach $500 Million Settlement With Michigan State University)

Indianapolis FBI agents did not maintain formal documentation of their initial meeting with the Team USA gymnastics representatives regarding the Nassar allegations. When the agents actually interviewed the first Nassar victim, they did so by phone, a choice the report calls “rare” because it is “difficult to get the victim to fully disclose any victimization through a telephonic interview.”

The two agents did not formally document that interview, the report alleges, only taking “a total of one and two pages of notes, respectively.” The two agents claimed that they drafted an official report, but the IG did not find it.

Later, the report found, the Indianapolis Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) repeatedly made false statements to the IG during the investigation. The SSA made false statements about the first Nassar complainant, who alleged that he sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions.

Another FBI agent, J. Stephen Abbott, the Special Agent in Charge, attempted to secure a job with the U.S. Olympic Committee while he was investigating Nassar. Abbott also lied to the IG about whether or not he asked a Bureau attorney about meeting with the President of USA Gymnastics, Stephen Penny, while he was investigating Nassar. Abbott continued to meet with Penny through 2016 and 2017, during the investigation. Abbott applied to the job in 2017, but was not hired.

Horowitz’s report recommends that the FBI clarify and reassess its procedures for interviewing victims, as well as procedures for coordinating with local authorities and other Bureau offices.

The actions and inactions of the FBI employees described in the Report are inexcusable and a discredit to this organization and the values we hold dear,” FBI Assistant Director Douglas Leff said. “The conduct and facts in the Report are appalling.”