The Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General’s recently released report has determined that the FBI mishandled the investigation into former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual assault case. Nassar was accused and convicted of sexually abusing over 150 underaged athletes, including Simone Biles.
The disgraced doctor was previously employed as an osteopathic physician and associate professor at Michigan State University’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, where he treated patients from 1996 through 2016. For most of that time, he also was employed as the USA Gymnastics national medical coordinator and a treating physician for gymnasts.
Nassar was reported to the FBI’s Indianapolis field office in July 2015 after multiple gymnasts came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct, leading USA Gymnastics President and CEO Stephen D. Penny Jr. to forward the allegations to the FBI. The OIG felt it necessary to retrace the FBI’s steps following complaints that employees in the Indianapolis field office mishandled the Nassar investigation, which did not begin until September 2016 in the wake of a report by the Indianapolis Star on the abuse scandal. Dozens more young women and girls were abused by Nassar over that time frame, the OIG report says.
According to the report, the OIG uncovered several instances of mismanagement, including senior officials in the office failing to respond to accusations against Nassar “with the utmost seriousness and urgency that the allegations deserved and required” and “made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond to them” including failing to “notify state or local authorities of the allegations or take other steps to mitigate the ongoing threat posed by Nassar.”
“This is a devastating indictment of the FBI and the Department of Justice that multiple federal agents covered up Nassar’s abuse and child molestation,” John Manly, a lawyer for many of Nassar’s victims, told The New York Times. “They’ve failed these women. They’ve failed these families. No one seems to give a damn about these little girls.”
The detailed report also places blame on now-retired Indianapolis field office special agent in charge W. Jay Abbot for violating FBI policy, exercising “extremely poor judgment under federal ethics” and making “materially false statements to minimize errors made by the Indianapolis Field Office.”
During the OIG’s investigation, it was uncovered that Abbott attempted to gain employment with the U.S. Olympic Committee, creating a clear conflict of interest, as they were connected to the ongoing case against Nassar. When questioned about his attempt, “Abbott denied that he had applied for a position with the U.S. Olympic Committee during both OIG interviews despite clear evidence to the contrary.” Abbott continued to deny applying for the committee position “even after the OIG confronted him with the fact that the OIG had obtained documentary evidence confirming that he applied” and “acknowledged only that it was ‘possible’ that he had applied for the
position but forgot doing so.”
The OIG concluded their investigation with a list of recommendations for the agency, including reassessing and clarifying numerous policies and developing one “describing the circumstances, if any, under which telephonic interviews of alleged child abuse victims, including adults who had allegedly been victims of abuse as children, are appropriate,” and training FBI employees on the report’s aforementioned updated policies.