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Dozens of abuse survivors sue FBI over Nassar investigation

World Jun 08, 2022 06:10PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, stands in court during his sentencing hearing in the Eaton County Court in Charlotte, Michigan, U.S., February 5, 2018. REUTERS/R

By Brendan O'Brien

(Reuters) - More than 90 women filed lawsuits on Wednesday against the FBI, accusing former agents at the agency of botching the sex abuse investigation into onetime USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, one of the law firms handling the case said.

Olympic gymnastics gold medalists Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney were among the women who filed federal tort claims against the agency, seeking a total of more than $1 billion, the California law firm of Manly, Stewart and Finaldi said in a statement.

"It is time for the FBI to be held accountable," said Team USA and NCAA National Champion gymnast Maggie Nichols.

FBI officials were not immediately available for comment.

Federal tort claims law allows individuals who were injured due to negligence or a wrongful act or omission by the federal government to be compensated.

The women accuse the FBI of mishandling credible complaints from numerous sources and failing to act on corroborating evidence the agency received in July 2015. They say the FBI's inaction allowed Nassar to continue molesting young women and girls up until the time he was charged in 2016.

The filings come two weeks after the U.S. Justice Department said it will stand by its prior decision not to file criminal charges against former FBI agents accused of botching the investigation.

In April, 13 unnamed sexual abuse survivors of Nassar submitted administrative tort claims against the FBI, seeking a total of $130 million from the FBI over similar allegations.

Nassar, who is also a former employee of Michigan State University, was sentenced in 2018 to up to 175 years in prison for abusing young female gymnasts entrusted to his care.

In September 2021, high profile Olympic gymnasts including Biles and Maroney gave heart-wrenching testimony before a U.S. Senate panel about the sexual abuse they endured for years under Nassar's care.

At that hearing, the gymnasts blasted the FBI for its mishandling of the investigation, with Biles accusing the bureau of turning a blind eye to all of Nassar's victims.

"We wouldn't have to be here if the FBI had taken responsibility for their failures," former gymnast and whistleblower Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to accuse Nassar publicly of sexual abuse, told Reuters.

"Because they did not choose to do that, the only mechanism for forcing any kind of restoration of accountability, reform and change is our civil justice system.

"And what that ultimately means is that the burden falls again on survivors for pushing for that reform."

Denhollander said she was not among those who filed lawsuits Wednesday because her abuse predated 2015 but that she applauded the women who did.

"I'm incredibly proud of these women for taking that step," she added.

A July 2021 report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz uncovered widespread and dire errors by the FBI that allowed Nassar to continue to abuse at least 70 more victims before he was finally arrested.

Two former FBI agents were singled out in the report - the former Indianapolis field office Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott and a former supervisory special agent who has since been identified as Michael Langeman.

Horowitz said the agents waited five weeks before conducting a phone interview with just one victim - Maroney - while failing to contact other victims.

Langeman did not properly document Maroney's interview until more than a year later, and when he did, it contained misstatements and omissions, the report found.

Horowitz also said Abbott violated ethics rules by trying to get a job with the U.S. Olympic Committee in the midst of the investigation, and later lied during his interview with the inspector general's office.

Abbott retired from the bureau in 2018, while Langeman was fired last fall.

Dozens of abuse survivors sue FBI over Nassar investigation
 

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