The bureau knew for months about Nassar’s behavior before acting — enabling him to abuse dozens more people.
In 2017, Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor, was convicted on state charges for decades of sexual abuse. While Nassar’s conviction was celebrated as a victory, many noted that he could have been stopped sooner — if federal law enforcement had acted. Now, some of Nassar’s victims are suing the FBI for failing to stop him.
The FBI knew about Nassar’s behavior since at least 2015, when allegations reached its field office in Indianapolis. Per the Associated Press, at least 40 girls and women were molested over the 14-month period by Nassar, in the time when the FBI was aware of allegations against him. Then, in May 2016, officials from USA Gymnastics contacted FBI officials in Los Angeles after agents in Indianapolis failed to do anything for eight months.
Last month, the Department of Justice’s inspector general said the FBI made “fundamental” errors and didn’t handle the case with “utmost seriousness.” While AP reported that the FBI said its conduct was “inexcusable,” that’s not enough for Nassar’s victims.
On Wednesday, lawyers for over 90 plaintiffs, including Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and McKayla Maroney, as well as former MSU gymnast Samantha Roy, announced a lawsuit against the FBI. Although each plaintiff is seeking a different amount in damages, The New York Times reported their total claims will exceed $1 billion.
The lawsuit comes only two weeks after the Justice Department decided not to pursue criminal charges against former FBI agents who failed to investigate Nassar. In response, Biles tweeted, “And people wonder why women/men don’t come forward, because justice is never served. This is literally insane to me, we keep suffering at what price?”
The full breadth of Nassar’s abuse is shocking. According to a timeline assembled by Slate, allegations against Nassar can be traced as far back as 1997, when former MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages received reports of his abuse. But an FBI investigation wouldn’t lead to Nassar’s arrest until 2016, when he was found to have 37,000 images and videos of child pornography on his property.
Per NPR, the FBI has six months to respond to the claims filed Wednesday. Its reply will dictate whether or not lawsuits will follow. But the women involved are not holding back in condemning the agencies that failed them. In a statement, Roy said, “If the FBI had simply done its job, Nassar would have been stopped before he ever had the chance to abuse hundreds of girls, including me.”
“My fellow survivors and I were betrayed by every institution that was supposed to protect us — the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, the FBI, and now the Department of Justice,” Roy added. “It is clear that the only path to justice and healing is through the legal process.”