Monday, August 2, 2021

Indianapolis FBI made many errors during Larry Nassar investigation, DOJ report finds

July 14, 2021
<p>POSSE lit 505 luminaries signifying the known survivors of Larry Nassar on Oct. 10, 2019 at the East Lansing Public Library.</p>

POSSE lit 505 luminaries signifying the known survivors of Larry Nassar on Oct. 10, 2019 at the East Lansing Public Library.

Photo by Sylvia Jarrus | The State News

Numerous errors were made by the Indianapolis FBI office during their investigation into the 2015 allegations of sexual abuse against ex-USA gymnastics team doctor and MSU employee Larry Nassar, a new report from the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice finds.

“The OIG (Office of the Inspector General) found that, despite the extraordinarily serious nature of the allegations and the possibility that Nassar’s conduct could be continuing, 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 required,” the report said.

According to the report, the office made numerous fundamental errors and violated multiple FBI policies when they did respond to the allegations.

The report said that officers did not undertake any investigative activity until 5 weeks after interviewing a gymnast about Nassar’s alleged sexual assaults. Additionally, the office only interviewed a single gymnast out of the three that President and Chief Executive Officer of USA Gymnastics Stephen D. Penny Jr. had informed the FBI were available for interview. 

The Indianapolis Field Office also did not transfer the matter to the FBI’s Lansing Resident Agency, even though the U.S. Attorney’s Office advised that this would be the proper action if the case fell under the FBI’s jurisdiction.  Because of this, the Lansing Resident Agency did not learn of the allegations until over a year after they were reported, and even then only found out about them from MSUPD. The office also falsely informed USA Gymnastics that the transfer had occurred.

According to the report, the FBI conducted no investigative activity in the matter for more than 8 months following the interview of the gymnast in September 2015.

“During that period of time, as alleged and detailed in numerous civil complaints, Nassar’s sexual assaults continued,” the report said.

The report also said that Indianapolis Field Office Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott violated the FBI’s conflict of interest policy by meeting with Penny to discuss a potential job opportunity with the U.S. Olympics Committee, and by continuing to discuss the Nassar investigation with him.

“These discussions included Penny expressing concern to Abbott about how USA Gymnastics was being portrayed in the media and whether Penny might be 'in trouble' and Abbott proposing to his colleagues an FBI public statement that would place USA Gymnastics in a positive light,” the report said. “At the same time, Abbott was aware that Penny appeared willing to put in a good word on Abbott’s behalf.”

Despite evidence to the contrary, Abbot denied to the Office of the Inspector General during two interviews that he had applied for the position, stating that applying for the job would have presented a conflict of interest.

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin released a statement following the report. 

“These young women have shown extraordinary courage and poise beyond their years, and their activism continues to inspire me every day,” she said in the statement. “But today’s report from the DOJ’s Inspector General makes clear that they were completely failed by federal law enforcement.”

Slotkin also said she will be requesting a private briefing to understand how these errors occurred and how the Bureau is planning to ensure these errors will not occur again.

U.S. Rep. Gary Peters also released a statement, calling the findings appalling, and referencing the need for legislation that would hold institutions accountable and ensure that survivors are protected.

“The Accountability of Leaders in Education to Report Title IX Investigations (ALERT) Act would require university leaders to certify they have reviewed any reports of sexual abuses perpetrated by university employees,” Peters said in the statement. 

The FBI national press office said in a press release Wednesday that the Bureau has confirmed that those responsible for the misconduct described in the report are no longer working on FBI matters.

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