DETROIT — Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles and dozens of other women who say they were sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar are demanding more than $1 billion from the FBI for failing to arrest the convicted sports doctor when the agency first received allegations against him, lawyers said. Wednesday.
There’s no denying that FBI agents in 2015 knew Nassar was accused of assaulting gymnasts, but they failed to act, leaving him free to continue targeting young women and girls for over a year. He pleaded guilty in 2017 and is serving decades in prison.
“It’s time for the FBI to be held accountable,” said Maggie Nichols, national champion gymnast at Oklahoma from 2017 to 2019.
Under federal law, a government agency has six months to respond to tort claims filed Wednesday. Prosecutions could follow, depending on the FBI’s response.
The roughly 90 plaintiffs include Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, all Olympic gold medalists, according to Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, a California law firm.
“If the FBI had just done their job, Nassar would have been arrested before he even had the chance to abuse hundreds of girls, including me,” said former University of Michigan gymnast Samantha Roy.
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 has not launched a formal investigation or notified federal or state authorities in Michigan, according to the Justice Department’s inspector general, an internal watchdog.
In 2016, FBI agents in Los Angeles opened a sex tourism investigation against Nassar and interviewed several survivors, but also failed to alert authorities in Michigan, the inspector general said.
Nassar was not arrested until the fall of 2016 during an investigation by Michigan State University police. He was a doctor at school.
The Michigan attorney general’s office eventually dealt with the assault charges against Nassar, while federal prosecutors in Grand Rapids, Michigan, filed a child pornography case. He is serving decades in prison.
The FBI declined to comment in April when the batch of 13 claims was filed, instead referring to Director Christopher Wray’s remarks to Congress in 2021.
“I’m especially sorry that there were people in the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster in 2015 and failed. And that’s inexcusable,” Wray told survivors at a hearing. in the Senate.
At that same hearing, Biles, widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time, said an “entire system” had enabled the abuse. Maroney recalled a “dead silence” when she spoke to FBI agents about Nassar.
The Justice Department said in May it would not pursue criminal charges against former FBI agents accused of giving inaccurate or incomplete answers during the inspector general’s investigation.
Federal law enforcement failures led to significant settlements, including $127.5 million for the families of those killed or injured in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. The FBI received a tip about five weeks before 17 people were killed, but it was never passed on to the South Florida office.
Matthew Schneider, a former US attorney in Detroit, said “it’s virtually a certainty” that the government will settle the claims of Nassar’s victims.
“When FBI Director Wray admitted that the FBI had completely failed in its duty to protect these survivors, he essentially shut the door on a court battle,” Schneider said. “A regulation has a legal meaning, but it also has a good moral sense.”
Paul Figley, a professor at American University Law School and a former Justice Department litigator, said the government would have defenses.
“The Tort Claims Act has worked very well for what it was supposed to do: help people injured in ordinary accidents” involving federal employees, Figley said. “The wrong act here is what the doctor did.”
The state of Michigan, which has also been accused of missing opportunities for many years to arrest Nassar, agreed in 2018 to pay $500 million to more than 300 assaulted women and girls. USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee reached a $380 million settlement in 2021.