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Thirteen survivors file claims against FBI, attorney Jamie White expands on details

April 21, 2022
<p>Teal flags signed in support of sexual assault victims photographed on April 3, 2019. The flags were part of a project by Parents of Sister Survivors Engage and were signed by at least 4,000 MSU students with words of support for survivors of sexual assault.</p>

Teal flags signed in support of sexual assault victims photographed on April 3, 2019. The flags were part of a project by Parents of Sister Survivors Engage and were signed by at least 4,000 MSU students with words of support for survivors of sexual assault.

Thirteen survivors of sexual abuse by ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar filed separate claims against the FBI on April 20. These claims total $130 million in damages for the FBI’s negligent failure to investigate Nassar’s sexual abuse allegations.

Two of the thirteen survivors filing claims are Grace French and Lindsey Lemke. The remainder of the survivors is anonymous.

“The FBI, a government institution charged with protecting citizens, failed to protect children and athletes,” French said. “They put their selfishness above our well-being and that lack of action by the FBI caused avoidable trauma for survivors like myself.”

On July 28, 2015, the FBI learned of three gymnasts who Nassar assaulted. Their formal policy requires that reports of child abuse be dealt with immediately. After little action until one undocumented phone interview with a survivor in September 2015, former FBI Indianapolis head W. Jay Abbott did not refer the allegations to the Lansing FBI. 

The allegations were referred to the Lansing FBI 17 months later, not from Abbott, but from MSUPD. Between the initial report in July and Nassar’s arrest, over 100 women and girls were assaulted by Nassar. The 13 survivors filing these claims were assaulted during this time.

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The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing regarding this mishandling of the investigation on Sept. 15, 2021. 

“The FBI could’ve helped to avoid this trauma,” French said. “It disgusts me and it hurts me. This incredible systemic breakdown shows that there is needed change in the way that the FBI responds to cases of abuse. We need to continue to pursue accountability for the institutions that allowed athletes and children to continue to see Nassar long after reports were made.”

A large part of the 13 claims are identical, the differences being the survivor’s extent of injury. There is also an included addendum outlining the basis of the claims. 

These claims, filed through White Law, are pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, or FTCA. The FTCA is an unusual act because it does not require direct action on the part of the agents for there to be a liability. FBI agents who are found in violation of policy and law will also be considered for liability. 

Under the FTCA, administrative complaints are required to be filed with the federal agency in concern. During a six-month period after the filing, the parties can negotiate. 

Attorney Jamie White said he is prepared to file a lawsuit after the six months under one of two jurisdictions: the Southern District of Indiana or the Western District of Michigan.

“This didn’t have to happen,” White said. “This is an egregious, unthinkable breakdown. We spend a lot of time and resources for those of us that do this type of work, encouraging young people and all people to report sexual abuse when it occurs. If we can’t report sexual abuse to the most powerful law enforcement agency, arguably, in the world, then where can it be reported?”

White said he is calling for an indictment, arrest and prosecution of any FBI official who made material false statements or omitted material information during the course of the investigation. He said these senior officials committed civil and criminal offenses. 

“Prosecution, in my opinion, is particularly appropriate where it can be proved that agents sought personal pecuniary gain while grossly neglecting their duty and the welfare of numerous women that came to the FBI for assistance,” White said.

White said instead of taking action during the investigation, Abbott worked on a resume to gain employment with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

“Agent Abbott didn’t have the energy, the interest or concern to address any of these allegations or follow the instructions of his supervisor and making the appropriate referrals,” White said.

White has heard from other attorneys hoping to file claims for other survivors assaulted during this time as well.

“I do expect there to be more claims,” White said. “I have been talking on and off with a colleague … I know that he’s been working diligently procuring claims for his clients. And I certainly have heard through kind of a hearsay world that other attorneys are also preparing to file claims.”

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