FBI probe of Larry Nassar: An 8-point breakdown of the 119-page watchdog report
A newly released Justice Department Inspector General report criticizes the FBI for the way the bureau mishandled sex abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
In the 119-page report, the department says the FBI's Indianapolis field office failed to respond "with the utmost seriousness and urgency that the allegations deserved and required." When it did respond to the allegations, the report says the FBI made "fundamental errors."
In response, the FBI said in a written statement that: "The actions and inactions of certain FBI employees described in the Report are inexcusable and a discredit to this organization."
Here's what we learned:
'Limited follow-up,' failure to mitigate risk
- The Justice Department says the FBI field office in Indianapolis "conducted limited follow-up" in the first few weeks after initial allegations of abuse were brought to light by former USA Gymnastics President Stephen D. Penny Jr. in July 2015. According to the investigation, a series of grave errors followed: not formally documenting any of their investigative activity, failing to properly review crucial video evidence of Nassar performing his purported "medical technique" and covering up their own institutional missteps after the investigation was brought to light.
- Though they couldn't take action themselves — with no evidence of illegal activity at the time — the field office failed to alert the proper authorities, the DOJ says. The report said the FBI office also failed to transfer the Nassar allegations to the appropriate agency — the FBI's Lansing Resident Agency, where Michigan State University is located and where Nassar treated patients. The Indianapolis Supervisory Special Agent said he had submitted a form to do so, but the DOJ's investigation found no evidence of this. They "did not take any action to mitigate the risk to gymnasts that Nassar continued to treat," the DOJ's report says.
- The FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, which had also been approached by USA Gymnastics, also failed to transfer any Nassar allegations to Lansing Resident Agency.
- In Michigan, FBI agents learned of allegations against Nassar independently, based on complaint submitted to Michigan State University Police Department and a 2016 story by IndyStar.
'Failed to document'
- The Indianapolis field office also failed to document a witness interview alleging sexual assault until more than a year after the interview occurred, the department's investigation found.
- The document was also written using only one page of "limited notes and memory," without consultation with the co-interviewer, the DOJ says. Some apparent statements do not match with the agent's notes, and they conflict with the statements made by the same gymnast during her interview with the Los Angeles field office.
More:New Nassar report details USA Gymnastics chief’s cozy ties with IMPD, FBI officials
Abbott's 'appearance' of conflict of interest
- The department also criticized the Indianapolis FBI office for the way they handled the case once it reached public scrutiny, reporting that they provided "incomplete and inaccurate information in response to internal FBI inquiries."
- Former FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott was also called out in the report for allegedly making false statements to investigators and omitting key details from a draft of a victim interview. He also "violated FBI policy and exercised extremely poor judgment" when he communicated with USA Gymnastics about a potential job opportunity, creating the "appearance of a conflict of interest," the report said.
Ultimately, the department's investigation found, the actions — and inaction — from the FBI contributed to "a delay of over a year" in convicting Nassar and getting justice for more than 100 victims.
Wednesday's report, released just a week ahead of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, was set off in 2018, when an internal review found that it took agents several months to open a formal investigation into gymnasts' complaints.
In a written response on Wednesday, the FBI said, in part:
“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."
Contact IndyStar reporter Rashika Jaipuriar at email@example.com.