Justice Dept. investigating how FBI handled Nassar claims

Justice Dept. investigating how FBI handled Nassar claims
Larry Nassar

The Justice Department has launched an investigation into the FBI’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Journal, citing sources familiar with the matter, said the Justice Department’s inspector general is looking into whether any FBI agents failed to respond in a timely manner to gymnasts’ complaints in 2015.

The investigation could lead to disciplinary action and criminal charges, the paper reported.

Nassar pleaded guilty last year to state charges of criminal sexual conduct and federal charges of child pornography. He was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison after hundreds of women and girls said he sexually abused them over the past two decades under the guise of providing medical treatment.

CNN is working to verify the Journal’s report.

The inspector general’s office declined to comment when contacted by CNN.

The FBI said in a statement it is reviewing its role in the Nassar investigation.

“The FBI holds itself and our operations accountable to the highest of standards and integrity. When warranted, the FBI reviews allegations in a fair, accurate, and impartial manner,” the FBI said. “In keeping with that commitment, we are reviewing our role in the investigation of Mr. Nassar. We are unable to comment further at this time as the review is ongoing.”

Attorney John Manly, who represents 180 gymnasts, said the FBI as well as USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee knew in July 2015 that Nassar, who was then a physician for Michigan State University, had molested three athletes.

“Their inaction allowed Nassar to return to MSU for more than a year and molest another 60 girls before he was finally arrested in November of 2016. That is inexcusable and possibly criminal,” Manley said in a statement provided to CNN in response to the Journal article. “A thorough and complete investigation needs to be undertaken. We owe it to these girls and their families.”

USA Gymnastics, the governing body for the sport in the United States, has said it “reported Nassar to the FBI in July 2015 and to a different FBI office again in April 2016.”

The Justice Department is trying to determine whether any FBI field offices failed to act on claims from Nassar’s victims, according to the Journal.

Authorities are reviewing the interactions that agents in different field offices, including the Indianapolis office, had with former Olympian McKayla Maroney and then-USA Gymnastics Chief Executive Steve Penny, the Journal reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Fallout following the Nassar scandal continued this week within the ranks of USA Gymnastics.

USA Gymnastics President and CEO Kerry Perry resigned Tuesday after nine months on the job. She was widely criticized for what many considered to be inadequate action and boilerplate soundbites following the scandal.

Last week, Mary Lee Tracy, the beleaguered organization’s elite development coordinator, was asked to resign after three days on the job after she “inappropriately contacted a (Nassar) survivor, who is also a represented plaintiff, in response to that survivor’s public criticism of her.”

Other staffers, including the head of USA Gymnastics women’s program and the coordinator for the women’s national team, also left the organization this year.