The Senate judiciary committee will hold hearings on the FBI’s mishandling of the investigation into allegations that former U.S. Olympic and women’s national gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar sexually abused Olympic and World champions and hundreds of other young women.
The judiciary committee’s announcement Thursday comes a day after the release of a Department of Justice report that found the FBI’s Indianapolis office failed to respond to allegations by U.S. Olympic and national team members that they had been sexually abused by Nassar “with the urgency that the allegations required.”
The report was based on a nearly three-year DOJ Office of the Inspector General investigation that also concluded that W. Jay Abbott, the Indianapolis special agent in charge, and an Indianapolis Field Office Supervisory Special Agent (Indianapolis SSA) made false statements to investigators. A 30-year FBI veteran, Abbott retired from the bureau in January 2018.
Specifically, Abbott lied to OIG investigators about applying for a top-level security position with the U.S. Olympic Committee while consulting with USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny about the Nassar case. The report also found that FBI agents lied to investigators to cover up errors made in the bureau’s investigation of Nassar.
The OIG also found that mistakes by the FBI enabled Nassar to sexually abuse at least 40 new victims between when Abbott was first briefed on the case in July 2015 and when the case became public in September 2016. The number of victims in that window could actually surpass 100, according to persons familiar with dozens of Nassar-related lawsuits.
“The FBI’s failure in this case led to more athletes being victimized. This Committee has the responsibility of oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation—and will hold a hearing to examine this injustice and to prevent future, similar tragedies,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill), chairman of the judiciary committee.
Penny and other top USA Gymnastics officials were informed in June 2015 of allegations that gymnast Maggie Nichols had been sexually assaulted by Nassar under the guise of treatment at a U.S. national team camp at the Karolyi Ranch in remote Central Texas. Within days Penny and other officials also learned of allegations that Olympic champions Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney had also been sexually abused by Nassar. Around this time, Penny began communicating with Abbott through a series of conversations and emails, often seeking the FBI agent’s advice on handling the case.
The OIG report found that “After eight months of inaction by the FBI Indianapolis Field Office, the FBI Los Angeles Field Office received the same allegations. The OIG found that while the Los Angeles Field Office took numerous investigative steps, it too failed to notify the FBI Lansing Resident Agency, or state or local authorities, of the allegations, and failed to take other steps to mitigate the ongoing threat posed by Nassar.”
“The IG report confirms my fears that the FBI dropped the ball, allowing abuses to continue for months,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee’s ranking member. “The Judiciary Committee’s upcoming hearing is a continuation of our oversight to get to the bottom of this. The FBI owes the American people an accounting for its failure to protect these children, and an explanation for how it plans to do better in the future.”
A hearing date has not been announced.
Source: Orange County Register