Washington, DC – The criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has opened a new probe into Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents’ handling of the investigation of former U.S. Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar after multiple nationally-known gymnasts testified that their complaints had been ignored by federal investigators.
U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco revealed that a new investigation was underway on Tuesday as she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Violence Against Women Act, NBC News reported.
Monaco made the admission after U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) asked her about the DOJ’s decision not to prosecute two FBI agents who are accused of having lied to the agency’s inspector general about their failure to investigate the allegations against Nassar.
“I can inform the committee today that the recently confirmed assistant attorney general for the criminal decision is currently reviewing this matter, including new information that has come to light,” Monaco said.
“I am constrained in what more I can say about it, but I do want the committee and frankly I want the survivors to understand how exceptionally seriously we take this issue and believe this deserves a thorough and fair review,” she told the committee, according to NBC News.
Four of the nation’s top gymnasts – Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols, and Aly Raisman – testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 15 that federal law enforcement stood by and did nothing after they reported their abuse, The Washington Post reported.
Biles, the most decorated athlete in U.S. women’s gymnastics, testified that she was “a survivor of sexual assault” and pointed the blame directly at Congress for its failure to properly oversee the entities it had created to run her sport, CBS News reported.
“I believe without a doubt that the circumstances that led to my abuse and allowed it to continue are directly the result of the fact that the organizations created by Congress to oversee and protect me as an athlete, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committees failed to do their jobs,” she said.
Biles said young gymnasts had “been failed, and we deserve answers,” CBS News reported.
“To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” she said.
Maroney told the senators she remembered talking to FBI agents in the summer of 2015 and giving “extreme detail” during a three-hour long phone interview about the sexual abuse she’d suffered at Nassar’s hands.
But an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael Horowitz determined that the FBI didn’t even launch an investigation into Nassar’s conduct until almost a year-and-a-half later, CBS News reported.
Maroney testified that the initial interview she’d given to an FBI agent wasn’t documented for 17 months.
And she said that when they finally started to do something about it, Maroney said FBI agents made “entirely false claims” about what she had told them during that first interview, CBS News reported.
“They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others,” the gymnast said.
Maroney accused the FBI, USA Gymnastics, and the U.S. Olympic Committee of working together to hide the allegations against the team doctor, CBS News reported.
“What is the point of reporting abuse if our own FBI agents are going to take it upon themselves to bury that report in a drawer?” she asked the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse, and did nothing.”
Raisman testified that she had made multiple requests to talk to the FBI about Nassar’s sexual abuse but said it took agents 14 months to respond to her, CBS News reported.
“It has become painfully clear how a survivor’s healing is affected by the handling of their abuse and it disgusts me that we are still fighting for the most basic answers and accountability over six years later,” she told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Raisman accused officials of “serving innocent children up to a pedophile on a silver platter” when they allowed Nassar to continue working at Michigan State University and Twistars USA Gymnastics Club in 2015 after officials knew of accusations by at least six gymnasts.
The Inspector General’s report found that the FBI’s Indianapolis office was aware of the allegations against Nassar in July of 2015, after USA Gymnastics had conducted its own internal investigation of the matter, CBS News reported.
However, the FBI didn’t launch an investigation until October of 2016 after the Indianapolis Star broke a story detailing the sexual assault allegations against Nassar by former gymnasts.
The Inspector General’s report said that at least 70 additional young athletes were sexually abused by Nassar between July of 2015 and September of 2016, according to CBS News.
The investigation by the Inspector General also found that special agent-in-charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis off had been in talks with USA Gymnastics about a job while working on the Nassar investigation.
The report said the in addition to the FBI’s “most basic failures in its law enforcement responsibilities,” the Inspector General found the law enforcement agency had also failed to notify state or local authorities about the allegations against Nassar, CBS News reported.
FBI agents also failed to document an interview with one of the victims, according to the report.
Nichols was the first gymnast to have reported the official team doctor’s abuse to USA Gymnastics, who did nothing about it, CBS News reported.
She testified how her dreams of making the U.S. Olympic team died after she reported her abuse by Nassar, The Washington Post reported.
Nassar was ultimately sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for possessing child pornography and up to 175 years in state prison for molesting seven girls.
After the gymnasts testified, Horowitz told the assembled senate committee that the Inspector General’s office had referred the agents who dropped the ball in the Nassar case to DOJ attorneys for criminal prosecution, but no charges had been brought, CBS News reported.
The FBI acknowledged that the conduct of its agents in the Indianapolis office was inexcusable after Horowitz’s report was released, the Associated Press reported.
FBI Director Christopher Wray apologized to Nassar’s victims at the hearing, according to The Hill.
“I want to begin by saying to the brave women who testified this morning… I’m deeply and profoundly sorry to each and every one of you,” Wray began. “Sorry for what you and your families been through.”
“I’m sorry that so many different people let you down over and over again,” the apology continued. “And 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 is inexcusable.”