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Justice Department settles claims on USA Gymnastics investigation

Senate hearings on FBI mistakes on Larry Nassar included testimony from four elite gymnasts

U.S. elite gymnasts from left, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols, and Simone Biles arrive to testify during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in 2021 on the FBI's handling of the Larry Nassar investigation.
U.S. elite gymnasts from left, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols, and Simone Biles arrive to testify during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in 2021 on the FBI's handling of the Larry Nassar investigation. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Justice Department announced settlements Tuesday related to administrative claims that the FBI failed to carry out a sufficient investigation of disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar, more than two years after a watchdog report blasted the agency’s handling of sexual abuse allegations.

The department, in a press release, said settlement agreements resolve 139 claims for a total of $138.7 million related to Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics national team doctor who was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison on charges related to the sexual abuse of minors.

Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin Mizer in a statement said Nassar abused his position for decades and betrayed the “trust of those under his care and medical supervision while skirting accountability.”

“These allegations should have been taken seriously from the outset,” Mizer said. “While these settlements won’t undo the harm Nassar inflicted, our hope is that they will help give the victims of his crimes some of the critical support they need to continue healing.”

Senate Judiciary Chair Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., posted on social media that the “FBI’s mishandling of sexual assault allegations in 2015 and 2016 against Larry Nassar was unacceptable.”

“While the FBI delayed, Nassar was still preying on victims,” Durbin wrote. “This settlement won’t [undo] the harm, but it will support victims as they continue to pursue justice.”

In 2021, a report from the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General found that senior officials in the FBI Indianapolis field office failed to respond to the Nassar allegations “with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved” and “made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond to them.”

After being informed of allegations against Nassar, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of Indiana and the FBI field office had “serious questions” over whether the allegations were “sufficient to support federal jurisdiction,” according to the inspector general’s report.

“Yet, the Indianapolis Field Office did not advise state or local authorities about the allegations and did not take any action to mitigate the risk to gymnasts that Nassar continued to treat,” the report said.

The Judiciary Committee held a hearing about the report that year, including testimony from four Team USA gymnasts.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, appearing at that panel hearing, said he was sorry that “there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed.”

“It never should have happened,” said Wray, who was not leading the FBI in 2015 and 2016 when the Nassar investigation should have taken place.

The Nassar scandal also prompted legislative action.

Last year, President Joe Biden signed into law a bill that supporters say will improve how FBI child victim witnesses are treated. The legislation was backed by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Chris Coons, D-Del., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

According to supporters, the bill would require the agency to use “multidisciplinary teams when investigating child sexual abuse cases, child sexual abuse material cases, and child trafficking cases.”

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