Justice Department Says FBI Did Not Handle Larry Nasar Sexual Abuse Case With ‘Seriousness and Urgency’

Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault, listens to victims impact statements during his sentencing in the Eaton County Circuit Court in Charlotte, Michigan, on Jan. 31, 2018. Photo by Rebecca Cook/REUTERS

Senior FBI officials failed on several fronts to properly handle claims of sexual abuse made against disgraced Olympic doctor Larry Nassar, according to a report released Wednesday by the Department of Justice’s inspector general.

FBI officials in Indianapolis first learned of allegations against Nassar in July 2015. Agents waited five weeks to conduct any interviews on the matter and then failed to follow protocol in sharing information with others in the bureau and other law enforcement agencies. Nassar, who later pleaded guilty to sexually abusing gymnasts under the guise of medical treatment, continued to see patients for more than a year until a separate complaint made to police in Michigan resulted in his arrest. More than 70 women and girls claim in civil lawsuits that Nassar sexually assaulted them during that yearlong period after the FBI received complaints about him.

The report said the FBI officials on the case did not respond with the “seriousness and urgency” required by serious allegations. The investigators also found the supervisory special agent in Indianapolis failed to properly document complaints, mishandled evidence and made false statements about the case. A now-retired FBI agent made false statements under oath as well, leading two U.S. senators to call for criminal charges.

“There were a number of documents and oral statements made to investigators that were plainly false,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who led a Congressional investigation of the Nassar case along with Sen. Jerry Moran. “I would like to know why there were no criminal charges and whether these agents will be held accountable. There has to be a measure of accountability.”

Wednesday’s report says W. Jay Abbott, the special agent in charge of the Nassar case in Indianapolis, provided false statements to the justice department investigators about his interest in working for USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee. The investigators also found that Abbott showed “extremely poor judgment” in the relationship he developed in 2015 with then-USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny.

Abbott met Penny at a bar in Indianapolis in October 2015, three months after Penny first provided the FBI with information about Nassar. The two men discussed a potential job for Abbott as a security officer for the U.S Olympic Committee after he retired from the FBI. Penny recommended Abbott for the position in an email he sent to the USOC’s chief security officer. According to the report, Abbott later applied for that position in 2017 and considered applying to replace Penny as the USA Gymnastics president when Penny resigned under pressure as news of the Nassar allegations garnered more attention. Abbott told the inspector general’s office under oath in 2019 that he never expressed interest in those positions.

Abbott retired from the FBI in January 2018, one month after Nassar pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges.

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SOURCE: ESPN, Dan Murphy

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