DETROIT - Former Olympic gymnasts, including gold medalist Simone Biles, are among dozens of assault victims who are seeking more than $1 billion from the FBI for failing to stop sports doctor Larry Nassar, lawyers said Wednesday.
There’s no dispute that FBI agents in 2015 knew that Nassar was accused of molesting gymnasts, but they failed to act, leaving him free to continue to target young women and girls for more than a year.
"It is time for the FBI to be held accountable," said Maggie Nichols, a national champion gymnast at Oklahoma in 2017-19.
Under federal law, a government agency has six months to respond to the tort claim. Lawsuits could follow, depending on the FBI’s response. The Justice Department said in May that it would not pursue criminal charges against former FBI agents who failed to quickly open an investigation.
The approximately 90 claimants include Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, all Olympic gold medalists, according to Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, a California law firm.
"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," 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 did not open a formal investigation or inform federal or state authorities in Michigan, according to the Justice Department’s inspector general, an internal watchdog.
Los Angeles FBI agents in 2016 began a sexual tourism investigation against Nassar and interviewed several victims but also didn’t alert Michigan authorities, the inspector general said.
Nassar wasn’t arrested until fall 2016 during an investigation by Michigan State University police. He was a doctor at Michigan State.
The Michigan attorney general’s office ultimately handled 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 a smaller batch of claims was filed, referring instead to Director Christopher Wray’s remarks to Congress in 2021.
"I’m especially sorry that there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed. And that’s inexcusable," Wray told victims at a Senate hearing.
Michigan State University, which was also accused of missing chances over many years to stop Nassar, agreed to pay $500 million to more than 300 women and girls who were assaulted. USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee made a $380 million settlement.