Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and other star U.S. gymnasts filed a billion-dollar lawsuit against the FBI on Wednesday over mishandling of a sexual abuse investigation by predatory former team doctor Larry Nassar.
Nassar, 58, is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty in late 2017 and early 2018 to sexually assaulting athletes while working as a sports physician at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University.
Hundreds of women, including Olympic gold medalists Biles, Raisman and McKayla Maroney, have accused Nassar of sexually abusing them during his more than two-decade career.
Biles, Raisman and Maroney are among more than 90 women who have filed a federal lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the law firms handling the case said in a joint statement.
“The majority of the claimants consist of more than 90 young women and girls who were abused after 2015 due to the FBI’s failure to take the necessary steps to protect them,” they said.
The complaint against the FBI comes just days after the Justice Department announced it would not bring charges against two now-retired FBI special agents who mishandled the Nassar investigation.
“My fellow survivors and I have been betrayed by every institution meant to protect us – the United States Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, the FBI and now the Department of Justice,” Maroney said in a statement.
“I had some hope that they would keep their word and hold the FBI accountable,” she said. “Clearly the only path to justice and healing is through the legal process.”
– ‘Grossly abandoned’ –
The law firms said the FBI received credible complaints in July 2015 about Nassar’s sexual assaults and was “subsequently able to immediately end Nassar’s predation.”
“However, the FBI grossly failed in its duty by refusing to interview gymnasts who were willing to speak about the abuse,” they said.
“As a result, Nassar continued his predatory behavior, sexually assaulting approximately 90 young women and children between July 28, 2015 and September 12, 2016,” they added.
An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuit, but pointed reporters to testimony before a Senate committee in September 2021 by FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Addressing Nassar’s victims, Wray said, “I’m especially sorry that there were people in the FBI who had their own shot at stopping this monster in 2015 and failed.”
“It’s inexcusable,” the FBI director said. “This should never have happened. And we’re doing everything in our power to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Nassar’s victims last year reached a $380 million settlement with USA Gymnastics, one of the largest on record for victims of sexual abuse.
USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy in 2018 after a tidal wave of allegations against Nassar overwhelmed the organization.
Michigan State University reached a $500 million settlement with hundreds of Nassar victims in 2018.