Nassar Victims Suing F.B.I. for Early Investigative Failures

WASHINGTON — More than 90 women who say they were sexually assaulted by Lawrence G. Nassar, the former doctor for U.S.A. Gymnastics who was convicted on state sexual abuse charges, filed lawsuits on Wednesday against the F.B.I. for its failure to investigate him when it received credible information about his crimes.

The lawsuits come two weeks after the Justice Department decided not to prosecute two former F.B.I. agents accused of bungling the bureau’s 2015 investigation into Mr. Nassar, allowing him to assault more than 70 girls and women for over a year before Michigan authorities arrested him.

The agents were accused by the Justice Department’s own watchdog of making false statements about the matter. In the fall, Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, testified to Congress that “there were people at the F.B.I. who had their chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed.”

The Justice Department said it would not prosecute the agents involved in what Mr. Wray has called “gross misconduct” because there was not enough evidence to bring a federal criminal case.

The plaintiffs include the Olympic gymnastics gold medalists Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney and the national gymnastics medalist Maggie Nichols, as well as the former University of Michigan gymnast Samantha Roy and the former Michigan State University gymnast Kaylee Lorincz, who now works as an advocate for sexual assault victims.

“My fellow survivors and I were betrayed by every institution that was supposed to protect us — the U.S. Olympic Committee, U.S.A. Gymnastics, the F.B.I. and now the Department of Justice,” Ms. Maroney said in a statement. “It is clear that the only path to justice and healing is through the legal process,” she added.

The plaintiffs are seeking different amounts in damages, but their total claims will exceed $1 billion, their lawyer, John C. Manly, said in a statement.

Mr. Nassar, who was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison, was accused of molesting hundreds of girls and women, including many members of the 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic gymnastics teams.

The F.B.I. field office in Indianapolis received evidence of his crimes in 2015. Agents proceeded to interview gymnasts including Ms. Maroney, who provided detailed testimony. Ultimately, they took no action to ramp up the investigation or stop Mr. Nassar, who continued to treat dozens of patients, including ones at Michigan State; Twistars gymnastics club in Dimondale, Mich.; and Holt High School in Michigan.

The F.B.I. also failed to notify state or local law enforcement about the child abuse accusations against Mr. Nassar, according to the Justice Department’s inspector general, which last summer released a report about the F.B.I.’s mismanagement of the matter, nearly five years after Mr. Nassar was arrested on federal child pornography charges. His arrest stemmed from an investigation brought by the Michigan State University Police Department after a 16-year-old had come forward about his abuse.

The inspector general accused W. Jay Abbott, who was in charge of the bureau’s Indianapolis field office, and Michael Langeman, an agent in that office, of making false statements to investigators who were conducting an inquiry into how they and others in the F.B.I. handled the Nassar case.

Mr. Langeman was fired two weeks before Ms. Biles, Ms. Maroney, Ms. Raisman and Ms. Nichols provided heart-wrenching testimony to Congress about the F.B.I.’s treatment of the Nassar matter. Among Mr. Langeman’s missteps was waiting 17 months to document his interview with Ms. Maroney, the first victim of Mr. Nassar’s to be interviewed by the F.B.I.

In September 2015, two months after the bureau learned about Mr. Nassar’s actions from U.S.A. Gymnastics, Mr. Langeman interviewed her during a three-hour phone call.

Ms. Maroney was 19 years old and had not even told her mother that Mr. Nassar had sexually assaulted her for many years, starting when she was 13, and including for hours twice a day at the London Games, where Ms. Maroney won a gold medal. In her testimony to Congress, Ms. Maroney recalled that Mr. Langeman concluded the interview by saying, “Is that all?”

According to Ms. Maroney, Mr. Langeman’s belated report, filed in 2017, contained several false statements, including that Mr. Nassar had anally penetrated her and that it had helped reduce her back pain.

The report also said that Ms. Nichols and Ms. Raisman declined to be interviewed by the F.B.I., which they said was not true.

“They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others,” Ms. Maroney told Congress in September.

In a report released last summer, the inspector general said Mr. Abbott, who retired from the F.B.I. during the investigation, made false statements “to minimize errors made by the Indianapolis field office in connection with the handling of the Nassar allegations.”

He also said Mr. Abbott was talking to U.S.A. Gymnastics about potential job opportunities while he was asking the organization about the allegations against Mr. Nassar, actions that violated F.B.I. policy.

Lawrence G. Nassar in court in 2018. He was sentened to up to 175 years in prison.Credit…Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal, via AP

The inspector general’s report said the F.B.I. mishandled witness interviews and did not share credible information regarding abuse with relevant authorities.

It also found that Mr. Nassar sexually abused 70 or more athletes between July 2015, when U.S.A. Gymnastics first reported allegations against him to the F.B.I.’s Indianapolis field office, and August 2016, when the Michigan State University Police Department received a separate complaint.

The women suing the F.B.I. say they were abused during this period.

“If the F.B.I. had simply done its job,” Ms. Roy said in a statement, “Nassar would have been stopped before he ever had the chance to abuse hundreds of girls, including me.”

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