WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The FBI made many serious mistakes while investigating allegations of sexual abuse against former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar and did not treat the case with the “more very serious, âsaid the Inspector General of the Ministry of Justice on Wednesday.
The FBI has admitted “inexcusable and discrediting” conduct for America’s premier law enforcement agency.
The long-awaited surveillance report raises serious questions about how the Department and the FBI handled the case, and it highlights serious faux pas at the FBI between when the allegations were first reported and the arrest of Nassar.
The Inspector General’s investigation was spurred by allegations that the FBI failed to promptly address the 2015 complaints against Nassar. USA Gymnastics had conducted its own internal investigation, and then the organization’s president, Stephen Penny, reported the allegations to the FBI field office in Indianapolis. But it was months before the office opened a formal investigation.
At least 40 girls and women said they were assaulted over a 14-month period as the FBI was aware of other allegations of sexual abuse involving Nassar. USA Gymnastics officials also contacted FBI officials in Los Angeles in May 2016 after eight months of agent inactivity in Indianapolis.
The Inspector General’s office found that “despite the extraordinarily serious nature” of the allegations against Nassar, FBI officials in Indianapolis did not respond with “the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and that they demanded “.
When responding, according to the report, FBI officials made “many fundamental mistakes” and also violated office policies. Among the missteps was the failure of any investigative activity for up to more than a month after a meeting with USA Gymnastics.
Officers interviewed one of the three athletes by phone, but never spoke with two other gymnasts despite being told they were available to meet with them.
The watchdog’s investigation also revealed that when the handling of the case by the FBI field office in Indianapolis came under scrutiny, officials took no responsibility for the missteps and provided incomplete and inaccurate information to internal FBI investigations.
The FBI berated its own employees who failed to act in the case and said that “should not have happened.”
“The actions and inactions of certain FBI employees described in the report are inexcusable and discredit this organization,” the agency said in a statement.
“The FBI has taken positive steps to ensure and confirmed that those responsible for the misconduct and breach of trust are no longer working with the FBI,” the statement said. “We will take all necessary steps to ensure that the employee failures described in the report do not recur.”
The Inspector General interviewed an FBI Surveillance Special Agent last September who said the original allegations reported by Penny and USA Gymnastics were “very vague” and who questioned Penny’s credibility, describing him as “a sort of snake oil salesman “.
“Several rules” violated
This special agent also told investigators that the Indianapolis field office did not appear to have jurisdiction to investigate because the alleged crimes did not take place in Indiana. This agent and an FBI supervisor at the office said he told Penny to contact local law enforcement – a claim contradicted by Penny and the chairman of the board of USA Gymnastics.
The FBI said the special surveillance agent “violated several policies” and that the agency took immediate action when it learned that the agent had failed to properly document complaints of sexual abuse. mismanaged evidence and failed to report abuse.
Nassar was ultimately charged in 2016 with federal child pornography and sexual abuse offenses in Michigan. He is now serving decades in prison after hundreds of girls and women say he sexually assaulted them under the guise of medical treatment while working for USA Gymnastics, based in the state of Michigan and the United States. Indiana, which trains Olympians.
The Inspector General’s office said it reviewed thousands of documents and interviewed more than 60 witnesses, including several victims, their parents, prosecutors and current and former FBI employees.
The FBI’s handling of the case has been strongly condemned by members of Congress, and some senators have called on Inspector General Michael Horowitz, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland to testify on the case. .
“We are appalled by the FBI’s mismanagement of the specific warnings its agents received about the horrific abuse of Larry Nassar years before he was finally arrested,” said Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. , and Jerry Moran, R-Kan.