Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles and dozens of other women who say they were sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar are seeking more than US$1 billion from the FBI for failing to stop the sports doctor when the agency first received allegations against him, lawyers said Wednesday.
There’s no dispute that FBI agents knew in 2015 that the now-imprisoned Nassar was accused of assaulting gymnasts, but they failed to act, leaving him free to continue to target young women and girls for more than a year. He pleaded guilty in 2017 and is serving decades in prison.
“It is time for the FBI to be held accountable,” said Maggie Nichols, a national champion gymnast at Oklahoma in 2017-19.
Under federal law, a government agency has six months to respond to the tort claims filed Wednesday. Lawsuits could follow, depending on the FBI’s response.
The approximately 90 claimants include Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, all Olympic gold medalists, according to Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, a California law firm.
“If the FBI had simply done its job, Nassar would have been stopped before he ever had the chance to abuse hundreds of girls, including me,” said former University of Michigan gymnast Samantha Roy.
An email seeking comment was sent to the FBI.
Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics told local FBI agents in 2015 that three gymnasts said they were assaulted by Nassar, a team doctor. But the FBI did not open a formal investigation or inform federal or state authorities in Michigan, according to the Justice Department’s inspector general, an internal watchdog.
Los Angeles FBI agents in 2016 began a sexual tourism investigation against Nassar and interviewed several victims but also didn’t alert Michigan authorities, the inspector general said.
Nassar wasn’t arrested until fall 2016 during an investigation by Michigan State University police. He was a doctor at Michigan State.
The Michigan attorney general’s office ultimately handled the assault charges against Nassar, while federal prosecutors in Grand Rapids, Michigan, filed a child pornography case.
In remarks to Congress last year, FBI Director Christopher Wray acknowledged major mistakes.
“I’m especially sorry that there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed. And that’s inexcusable,” Wray told victims at a Senate hearing.
At that same hearing, Biles, widely considered to be the greatest gymnast of all time, said an “entire system” enabled the abuse. Maroney recalled “dead silence” when she talked to FBI agents about Nassar.
The Justice Department in May said that it would not pursue criminal charges against former agents who were accused of giving inaccurate or incomplete responses during the inspector general’s investigation.
Michigan State University, which was also accused of missing chances over many years to stop Nassar, agreed to pay $500 million to more than 300 women and girls who were assaulted by Nassar. USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee made a $380 million settlement.