Watchdog: FBI failed to respond to Nassar allegations with ‘utmost seriousness’

Report highlights missteps between when allegations were first reported to Nassar’s arrest

Watchdog: FBI 'failed survivors' in Nassar case
Watchdog: FBI 'failed survivors' in Nassar case

The Justice Department said on Wednesday that the FBI made numerous serious errors in investigating allegations against former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar and didn’t treat the case with the “utmost seriousness.”

The long-awaited watchdog report raises serious questions about how the Justice Department and the FBI handled the case and highlights serious missteps at the FBI between the time the allegations were first reported until Nassar’s arrest.

“Despite the extraordinarily serious nature of the allegations and the possibility that Nassar’s conduct could be continuing, senior officials in the FBI Indianapolis field office failed to respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required,” read the report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG).

Errors reported include:

  • Only talking to one of the athletes willing to share what happened to them, failing to document the interview and others.
  • Omitting critical information
  • Failing to alert the Lansing FBI office and coordinating with local law enforcement
  • Lying about what was done and when

Read: Michigan AG: Michigan State University refuses to release Nassar documents, investigation forced to close

In addition, it was reported that the special agent in charge of the Indianapolis field office was talking with Steve Penny of USA Gymnastics about a job with the U.S. Olympic committee in midst of the ordeal.

“I don’t know what accountability there’s going to be for these bad actors. Sovereign immunity laws mean that law enforcement can’t be held responsible to the dozens of girls who were molested after they knew what was going on,” said lawyer and Nassar survivor, Rachael Denhollander. “The accountability is accompanying the answers. And that’s a problem that we deal with continually with law enforcement. There’s no accountability for bad actors.”

Nassar was ultimately charged in 2016 with federal child porn offenses and sexual abuse charges in Michigan.

He is now serving decades in prison after hundreds of girls and women said he sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment when he worked for Michigan State University and Indiana-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

“The DOJ report took years to expose something, we as the survivors, already knew. It’s unacceptable that the FBI failed to act upon sexual assault allegations, cover up their trail of failures, and continue to lack any level of accountability as our countries highest investigating agency. At this point there have been no charges or criminal investigations into those that had the ability to prevent over 100 children from being assaulted,” said Trinea Gonczar, director of development for Detroit-based Avalon Healing Center and Nassar survivor.

“All my clients wanted when speaking up about Larry Nassar was to protect other children and have Nassar held accountable. Unfortunately, it appears to this office that the Indianapolis FBI office including the Special Agent In Charge intentionally killed the Nassar investigation with USA Gymnastics, acting as a full partner in its deception and conspiracy in September of 2015,” John Manly, a lawyer for many of the victims, said in a statement.

More: Larry Nassar case coverage


About the Authors:

DeJanay Booth joined WDIV as a web producer in July 2020. She previously worked as a news reporter in New Mexico before moving back to Michigan.