The FBI disregarded allegations about a prolific USA Gymnastics child abuser and later made serious errors in the investigation, a watchdog has found. The long-awaited report gave a scathing assessment of the FBI’s investigation into former team doctor Larry Nassar. Nassar was sentenced to over 300 years in jail in 2018 for molesting gymnasts. Numerous missteps and coverups by FBI agents allowed his abuse to continue for months after the case was first opened, the report found.
Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of abuse, said that while the US justice department’s internal review exposed serious failings, there was a lack of accountability. “This report lays bare the corruption, but its conclusion says ‘doesn’t matter. Because nothing happens now,” she wrote in a series of tweets. “These agents retire on government pensions while survivors fight to stay alive.” In a statement on Wednesday, the FBI acknowledged the findings of the report, calling the handling of the Nassar file “inexcusable and a discredit to this organization”.
“We will take all necessary steps to ensure that the failures of the employees outlined in the report do not happen again,” the agency said. The 119-page report by the Department of Justice Inspector General found that despite the seriousness of the allegations against Nassar, the FBI field office in Indianapolis dragged its feet in responding. In July 2015, following an internal review into Nassar, USA Gymnastics reported a number of allegations to the FBI in Indianapolis.
After some “limited follow-up” that summer, the agency “did not undertake any investigative activity” on the case for more than eight months. During that time, the report said, Nassar’s sexual assaults continued. Confronted by their mistakes, two FBI officials lied during interviews to cover up their errors, the report said. At the time the allegations surfaced, one of the FBI agents, Jay Abbott, had been in discussions with USA Gymnastics officials about a job with the Olympic Committee. Mr Abbott retired from the agency in 2018. The other, an unnamed employee, “is no longer a supervisor”, the FBI said on Wednesday, and will not work on FBI matters until an internal investigation is complete.
Mr Abbott’s lawyer, Josh Minkler, said in a statement to Reuters news agency that his client “thanks the law enforcement officers and prosecutors who brought Larry Nassar to justice”. The internal review into the FBI’s handling of the Nassar case was launched in 2018 when the disgraced doctor was sentenced to decades behind bars. He has been accused of sexual abuse by more than 330 women and girls from USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, including Olympic stars Simone Biles and Aly Raisman.
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