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Justice Department says investigation of FBI’s handling of Larry Nassar case remains ongoing

The U.S. Department of Justice is continuing to investigate the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against former U.S. Olympic and USA Gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar, according to department’s inspector general.

Michael E. Horowitz, the inspector, in a letter to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) stated that the Justice Department Office of the Inspector General’s 22-month investigation “of the allegations concerning the FBI’s handling of the Nassar investigation is ongoing, and we are working diligently to complete it.”

Between August and October 2018, Office of the Inspector General investigators and FBI agents from local field offices interviewed Olympic champions Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Jordyn Wieber, and Maggie Nichols, a 2015 World champion, and their parents about the FBI’s investigation of Nassar, according to interviews and documents obtained by the Southern California News Group.

The Justice Department, however, still has not released the OIG report on the FBI’s role in the Nassar scandal a year and a half after the OIG official leading the investigation told parties in the case that the investigators’ report had been forwarded to the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section. Two federal prosecutors in the PIS also confirmed they had received the report nearly a year ago, an attorney involved in the case said.

“The Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General is investigating the allegations concerning the FBI’s handling of the Nassar investigation, and the victims and the public should rest assured our findings will be made public at the end of our investigation,” Stephanie M. Logan, senior public affairs specialist for the Office of the Inspector General, said in an email to SCNG last month.

Horowitz’s letter was in response to a June 2 letter by Cornyn to Horowitz that called for the release of the OIG report. Cornyn wrote in the letter that he was “deeply concerned about evidence of the FBI’s lack of urgency” in investigating allegations against Nassar in 2015 and 2016.

“When the investigation is concluded, and we have finished our final report, we will proceed with our usual process for releasing our findings publicly in accordance with relevant laws,” Horowitz wrote Cornyn.

Gymnasts, their parents and attorneys have accused the FBI of enabling Nassar’s continued abuse of young female athletes by the plodding pace of an investigation that lacked the sense of urgency the gravity of the charges required and potentially aided USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny in the organization’s alleged coverup. Parents said they repeatedly offered FBI agents emails, texts and other materials that pointed to an alleged coverup by USA Gymnastics, only to be informed by agents that their only focus was Nassar.

Nassar, according to court documents, sexually abused at least 40 young athletes between USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny’s first contact with the FBI agent in charge of the bureau’s Indianapolis office in July 2015 and September 2016, when Nassar’s abuse became public. The number of victims in that window could actually surpass 100, according to persons familiar with dozens of Nassar-related lawsuits.

Nassar announced in September 2015 he was retiring as USA Gymnastics women’s national team physician. Neither he nor the organization disclosed the reason for his leaving

Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges in 2017. He also pleaded guilty in 2018 to a total of 10 sexual assault charges in two Michigan state cases.

Penny was in regular contact with W. Jay Abbott, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis office, from July 27, 2015, when the national governing body first contacted the FBI with allegations that Nassar had sexually assaulted Team USA gymnasts under the guise of performing medical treatment. USA Gymnastics is based in Indianapolis.

Penny not only kept Abbott and other FBI officials updated on the availability of potential victims to be interviewed by the FBI, and developments with Nassar,  but also asked Abbott and other agents for advice and help in managing Nassar and the media, and in some cases for favors in how the FBI presented and handled the case, according to emails. The favors included Penny asking agents to withhold information from potential victims, according to emails.

During the FBI’s initial steps in investigating Nassar, Penny and Abbott also discussed on multiple occasions the possibility of Abbott becoming the U.S. Olympic Committee’s chief of security after his retirement from the bureau, an idea first floated by Penny, according to emails. Penny recommended Abbott to USOC officials during this same time period.

Abbott has not responded to repeated requests for comment. Penny denies any wrongdoing.

Source: Orange County Register

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