DETROIT (CN) — Thirteen victims who were sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar each filed claims seeking $10 million from the FBI, accusing the agency of mishandling an investigation into Nassar and dragging its feet to catch up after learning more horrific details.
At a press conference Thursday morning announcing the administrative complaints, lawyers and a victim spoke out about the effort to hold the bureau accountable, especially for the abuse that took place after July 2015.
The Justice Department’s inspector general reported last year that several errors in judgment were made by the FBI when it became aware of allegations against Nassar in 2015.
Nassar was an athlete physician for Michigan State University as well as a doctor USA Gymnastics. He was sentenced to decades in prison for assaulting female athletes, including medal-winning Olympic gymnasts.
Grace French, a victim of Nassar’s abuse and president of a support group called Army of Survivors, vowed she would seek justice.
“Since this case broke four years ago, Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics have been talked about as the enabling institutions that allowed the abuse of hundreds of women to occur. Due to the Department of Justice’s report in July, we now know that the FBI should be included in that same group and should be held accountable,” French said at the press conference.
She added, “This is about showing these institutions…they won’t get away with it.”
Antoinette Frazho of White Law PLLC, representing several athletes, accused the FBI of turning a blind eye to the allegations as Nassar's abuse continued.
“Now [the athletes] must live with the trauma,” she said.
Attorney Jamie White's firm has not filed a lawsuit yet. Under federal law, internal tort claims must first be a filed with a government agency, which then has six months to reply. A lawsuit could then follow based on the response from the FBI.
“We can’t ignore what’s occurred,” White said. “More than 100 women were assaulted after July 2015. That did not have to happen.”
He continued, “I am calling for an indictment, arrest and prosecution of any official of the FBI that made material false statements" about the case.
White went on to reference the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida as an example of how the tort claim is utilized. In that case, the government agreed to pay $127.5 million in damages to families of those killed or injured when it was learned the FBI received information several weeks before 17 people were fatally shot at the school, but the tip was never forwarded to the FBI’s South Florida office.
The Justice Department inspector general’s investigation was launched due to allegations the FBI failed to promptly address complaints made in 2015 against Nassar. It was not until months later that agents opened a formal investigation.
Nassar wasn’t arrested by state authorities until November 2016 as part of an investigation by Michigan State University police.
FBI Director Christopher Wray has stated he’s “deeply and profoundly sorry” for delays in Nassar’s prosecution and the trauma that ensued.
An email request for comment to the FBI National Press Office was not returned by press time.
Michigan State University agreed to a massive settlement of $500 million for more than 300 women and girls who were assaulted by Nassar. USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee were part of a separate $380 million settlement.