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Back in mid-September, a number of gymnasts testified in front of Congress against the FBI's actions. Photo: Saul Loeb/Getty Images

DOJ to open review of FBI handling of Larry Nassar investigation

A little less than a month ago, a number of the most decorated U.S. gymnasts testified in front of Congress about the agency’s negligence.

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The Justice Department’s criminal division has opened a new review into the FBI’s handling, or rather, mishandling of the investigation into Larry Nassar, the U.S. gymnastics team doctor who is serving a 175-year sentence for sexually abusing his patients. 

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco disclosed the existence of the probe while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Violence Against Women Act

Sen. Dick Durbin had asked Monaco about the Justice Department’s choice last year not to prosecute two agents who allegedly lied to their inspector general about their failure to investigate the allegations against the physician. 

"I can inform the committee today that the recently confirmed assistant attorney general for the criminal decision is currently reviewing this matter, including new information that has come to light," Monaco said.

Monaco also expressed deep apologies and remorse for the victims that did not receive the response or protection they deserved. 

She said she is unable to say too much about the probe, but wanted to assure the survivors that the issue is being taken seriously, and that it deserves a “thorough and fair review.”

Inspector general Michael Horowitz’s report revealed that even though gymnasts first reported sexual assault to the FBI in 2015, Nassar continued to treat gymnasts at Michigan State University, a high school and a gymnastics club until September 2016. 

Nassar later pleaded guilty to abusing 10 of the more than 265 patients who came forward with allegations, but these dire errors in the investigation allowed Nassar to abuse at least 70 more victims before he was finally arrested. 

Two former FBI agents were singled out in the report, former Indianapolis field office Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott, and a former supervisory special agent, Michael Langeman. 

Horowitz said the agents waited five weeks before conducting a phone interview with just one victim — McKayla Maroney — while neglecting to contact other victims. 

Langeman did not properly document Maroney’s interview until more than a year later, and when he did, it contained misstatements and omissions. He was only recently fired from the agency. 

On Wednesday, Sept. 15, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, joined by fellow gymnasts and survivors of Nassar’s abuse, gave a powerful and emotional testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, stating that the FBI “turned a blind eye” to them.

“We have been failed, and we deserve answers. Nassar is where he belongs, but those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable,” Biles said. 

A day after delivering her testimony, gymnast Aly Raisman appeared on Good Morning America, sharing that she hopes people will begin to realize how awful things are.

“This is a really big cover up, and the fact that the FBI, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee didn't think that this was important enough to handle it the right way is horrific,” Raisman said, adding that Nassar was first reported decades ago, and that she should have never met him. 

During the hearing, FBI Director Christopher Wray criticized his own agents for failing to appropriately respond to the complaints, and vowed to the survivors that everyone at the agency will remember what happened here, and make sure it never happens again. 

Two U.S. Senators, Richard Blumenthal and Jerry Moran, said in a statement that they were encouraged by the new Justice Department inquiry.

After the review, the senators said: "We expect the Department of Justice to provide the kind of public explanation for its final prosecution decision that has so far been lacking."

 

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