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Watchdog accuses FBI of mishandling Nassar sexual abuse case

The FBI made a series of critical errors in its handling of sexual abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who sexually abused female athletes for years, the Department of Justice’s inspector general said in a scathing report released Wednesday. The report said more athletes were abused by Nassar after the FBI became aware of the allegations.

The inspector general accused the FBI of failing to respond to the allegations against Nassar with the “utmost seriousness and urgency” they required. Nassar, who also served as the doctor for a gymnastics club and a high school, has been sentenced to over 100 years in prison for crimes of sexual abuse and child pornography.

The report said the FBI’s Indianapolis field office first learned of the accusations in July 2015 after USA Gymnastics conducted its own internal investigation. But the FBI did not open an investigation in Michigan, where the abuse occurred and where Nassar was still working at Michigan State University, until October 2016. The FBI did not take action until USA Gymnastics filed a new complaint about the inactivity, the report said.

Nassar abused additional athletes after the allegations were first brought to the FBI’s attention, the report said. The inspector general also accused the FBI of failing to “formally document” the initial meeting when the allegations were brought to their attention.

The report said the thumb drive contained “PowerPoint slides and videos that Nassar had provided to USA Gymnastics of Nassar performing his purported medical technique on athletes.”

The inspector general also accused the FBI of failing to properly document an interview with one of Nassar’s accusers, failing to reach out to other accusers who were known at the time, and not informing other relevant law enforcement agencies of the allegations.

Larry Nassar in 2018.

Reuters/Rebecca Cook

The report claims W. Jay Abbott, the agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis field office, “made materially false statements” when he was interviewed for the report.

The FBI released a statement acknowledging the missteps outlined in the report. “The actions and inactions of certain FBI employees described in the report are inexcusable and a discredit to this organization,” the bureau said.

The watchdog report offered recommendations on how the FBI should revamp its policies to ensure similar mistakes are not made again. These include making it clear when FBI employees should refer allegations to state and local officials and requiring “FBI employees to confirm receipt of transfers between field offices of certain categories of complaints, such as complaints of serious or multi-victim sexual abuse.”



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