Olympians McKayla Maroney and Simone Biles ripped the FBI and Justice Department in a Senate hearing Wednesday on the botched investigation of Larry Nassar’s abuse.
Nassar, a former US Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison, after more than 150 women and girls said he sexually abused them over the past two decades.
The Justice Department’s inspector general found FBI officials investigating the allegations violated the agency’s policies by making false statements and failing to properly document complaints by the accusers, reported CNN.
Biles is testifying alongside former teammates Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, who is known as “Athlete A” in the Nassar case because she was the first elite gymnast to report the abuse to USA Gymnastics.
That was in July 2015. The Lansing office of the FBI opened its official investigation into Nassar in October 2016, reported New York Times.
Hundreds of girls and women who were abused by Nassar have been waiting to hear from the FBI about the mistakes in the case. Biles, the Olympic gold medalist, has been vocal about wanting to know “who knew what, and when” about Nassar.
The hearing comes days after the FBI fired one agent who initially worked on the case investigating Nassar, the former national gymnastics team doctor who ultimately was convicted on state charges of abusing scores of gymnasts, including Olympians, under the guise of physical exams.
And it comes two months after the Justice Department’s inspector general released a report that heavily criticized the FBI for making “crucial errors” in the matter. Those errors allowed Nassar to continue treating patients for eight months at Michigan State University, where he practiced, and in and around Lansing, Michigan, including at a local gymnastics center and a high school.
Nassar was able to molest more than 70 girls and women while the FBI failed to act, found the inspector general’s report.
Biles said she and survivors of abuse by Nassar want to see those involved in the botched FBI investigation into the former USA Gymnastics doctor “at least be federally prosecuted to the fullest extent because they need to be held accountable,” in response to a question posed by Sen. Patrick Leahy.
Leahy responded, “As a former prosecutor, I agree with that.”
Prior to Biles’ statement, fellow Olympian Aly Raisman said “genuine accountability” means a complete overhaul of the system and a full investigation into the FBI, US Olympic & Paralympic Committee and USA Gymnastics.
Two FBI agents assigned to the case no longer work for the agency.
Michael Langeman, a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s Indianapolis office, was fired in the days leading up to Wednesday’s hearing, according to sources. Those people did not want their names published because they do not have the authority to speak publicly about the case.
The Washington Post was the first to publish news of Langeman’s firing.
Langeman was not named in the report and was not immediately available for comment. But his actions as the special supervisory agent, and his multiple crucial missteps, were described in detail.
The report said Langeman should have known that Nassar’s abuse was probably widespread, yet he failed to urgently investigate the case. He interviewed only one of the three elite gymnasts who gave the USA Gymnastics details of Nassar’s abuse. Langeman also failed to properly document that interview or open an investigation.
In an interview report he filed with the FBI 17 months after he spoke to that gymnast — McKayla Maroney, who was not named in the report — he included statements she did not make, according to the report.
After detailing the sexual abuse she experienced from Nassar, Maroney outlined what she hopes will happen next in the investigation.
“They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing. If they’re not going to protect me, I want to know who they are trying to protect?” she said.
“What’s even more upsetting to me is that we know that these FBI agents have committed an obvious crime. They falsified my statement, and that is illegal in itself. Yet no recourse has been taken against them,” said Maroney.
“The Department of Justice refused to prosecute these individuals. Why?” she said. “Deputy attorney general Lisa Monaco couldn’t bring herself to be here today. It’s the Department of Justice’s job to hold them accountable.”
Like other agents initially involved in the case, Langeman did not alert local or state officials of Nassar’s alleged abuse, violating FBI policy that states that crimes against children “invariably require a broad, multijurisdictional, and multidisciplinary approach.”
Langeman later said he had filed an initial report about Nassar, asking for the case to be transferred to the Lansing office because that’s where Nassar was based at Michigan State. But the paperwork wasn’t found in the FBI database, the inspector general’s report said.
“I am tired of waiting for people to do the right thing because my abuse was enough, and we deserve justice,” said Maroney, looking at teammates Simone Biles, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman who are also testifying today.
“These individuals clearly violated policies and were negligent in executing their duties, and in doing so, more girls were abused by Larry Nassar for over a year,” she said.
W. Jay Abbott, an FBI special agent at its Indianapolis office, no longer works either with the FBI after he retired in 2018. The report said he falsified statements to Justice Department investigators and “violated FBI policy and exercised extremely poor judgment under federal ethics rules.”
According to the report, he had been angling for a job with the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, and discussed it with Steve Penny, who was then the president of USA Gymnastics. Abbott applied for the job with the USOPC, but didn’t get the position — yet told Justice Department investigators that he never applied.
“To not indict these agents is a disservice to me and my teammates, a disservice to the system which is built to protect all of us from abuse,” the gymnast continued.
“Not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said,” testified Maroney. She said she was 15 when she spoke to agents. “They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others.”