Watchdog: FBI made errors in Nassar abuse investigation

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FILE – In this Feb. 5, 2018, file photo, Larry Nassar listens during his sentencing at Eaton County Circuit Court in Charlotte, Mich. (Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP, File)

UPDATE: 7/14/2021 6:18PM LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Michigan Senator Gary Peters released a statement regarding the report.

“These findings are absolutely appalling and reinforce the systemic failure that allowed a monster to continue inflicting sexual abuse on collegiate and amateur athletes. We must ensure this can never happen again.

“We must take action in Congress and I will keep pushing for passage of my bipartisan legislation that would hold institutions accountable and ensure survivors are protected when they come forward with reports of abuse.”

UPDATE: 7/14/2021 4:38PM LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – The FBI released a response to the Justice Department report.

“As the Inspector General made clear in today’s report, this should not have happened.  The FBI will never lose sight of the harm that Nassar’s abuse caused.  The actions and inactions of certain FBI employees described in the Report are inexcusable and a discredit to this organization. The FBI has taken affirmative steps to ensure and has confirmed that those responsible for the misconduct and breach of trust no longer work FBI matters.  

Prior to today, the FBI initiated improvements to make sure that serious allegations, such as these, are promptly shared with our law enforcement partners and within the FBI.  As a continuation of these efforts, the FBI is fully committed to implementing all of the recommendations made by the Inspector General.  

We will take all necessary steps to ensure that the failures of the employees outlined in the Report do not happen again.” 

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – A Justice Department investigation has found that the FBI made errors in the Larry Nassar sex abuse investigation, and that the Bureau didn’t treat the case with ‘utmost seriousness.’

The inspector general’s investigation was spurred by allegations that the FBI failed to promptly address complaints made in 2015 against Nassar. USA Gymnastics had conducted its own internal investigation and then the organization’s then-president, Stephen Penny, reported the allegations to the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis. But it took months before the bureau opened a formal investigation.

“When the FBI’s handling of the Nassar matter came under scrutiny from the public, Congress, the media, and FBI headquarters in 2017 and 2018, Indianapolis [FBI] officials did not take responsibility for their failures,” a Justice Department report said.

Larry Nassar, a former Olympic coach that also worked for MSU and Twistars, was convicted of possession of child pornography and sexually assaulting several women and girls. While Nassar only plead guilty to assaulting a few women, at least 40 girls and women said they were molested over a 14-month period while the FBI was aware of other sexual abuse allegations involving Nassar. 

“Instead, they provided incomplete and inaccurate information in response to internal FBI inquiries (and Indianapolis Field Office Special Agent in Charge (SAC) W. Jay Abbott, after he retired, provided inaccurate information to the media) to make it appear that the Indianapolis office had been diligent in its follow-up efforts and they did so, in part, by blaming others for their own failures,” the report said.

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 required.”

When they did respond, the report said, FBI officials made “numerous and fundamental errors” and also violated bureau policies. Among the missteps was a failure to conduct any investigative activity after until more than a month after a meeting with USA Gymnastics. Agents interviewed by phone one of three athletes, but never spoke with two other gymnasts despite being told they were available to meet.

The watchdog investigation also found that when the FBI’s Indianapolis field office’s handling of the matter came under scrutiny, officials there did not take any responsibility for the missteps and gave incomplete and inaccurate information to internal FBI inquiries.

The FBI rebuked its own employees who failed to act in the case and said it “should not have happened.”

“The actions and inactions of certain FBI employees described in the Report are inexcusable and a discredit to this organization,” the agency said in a statement.

“The FBI has taken affirmative steps to ensure and has confirmed that those responsible for the misconduct and breach of trust no longer work FBI matters,” the statement said. “We will take all necessary steps to ensure that the failures of the employees outlined in the Report do not happen again.”

Nassar was ultimately charged in 2016 with federal child pornography offenses and sexual abuse charges in Michigan.

He is now serving decades in prison after hundreds of girls and women said he sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment when he worked for Michigan State and Indiana-based USA Gymnastics, 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.

<<<THIS IS A DEVELOPING STORY AND WILL BE UPDATED AS MORE INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE>>>

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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