(Detroit) — Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles and dozens of other women who say they were sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar are seeking more than $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 in 2015 knew that 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 was sentenced to decades of imprisonment after pleading guilty in 2017.
“It is time for the FBI to be held accountable,” said Maggie Nichols, a national champion gymnast at Oklahoma in 2017-19.
Federal law gives a government agency six months from Wednesday to reply to tort claims. Lawsuits could follow, depending on the FBI’s response.
White noted the 2018 massacre at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The FBI received a tip about five weeks before 17 people were killed at the school, but the tip was never forwarded to the FBI’s South Florida office. Family members of the victims and their families were paid $127.5 million by the government.
The approximately 90 claimants include Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, all Olympic gold medalists, according to Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, a California law firm. In addition, 13 other claims were made in April.
“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.
The FBI received an email requesting comment.
USA Gymnastics in Indianapolis told local agents in 2015 about three victims of an assault by Nassar. 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 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 worked as a Michigan State doctor.
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.
Christopher Wray, FBI Director, acknowledged that he made major errors in his remarks to Congress last January.
“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.
Failures by federal law enforcers have led to major settlements, including $127.5 million for families of those killed or injured in 2018 at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Although the FBI had received the tip five weeks prior to 17 deaths, it was not forwarded to South Florida.
Michigan State University was accused of failing to take action over several years in order to stop Nassar. It agreed to compensate more than 300 victims who were harmed by him with $500 million. USA Gymnastics and U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee settled for $380 million.
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