DETROIT — Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles and dozens of other women who say they were sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar are demanding more than $1 billion from the FBI for not arresting the sports doctor when the agency first received allegations against him, lawyers said on Wednesday.
There is no doubt that FBI agents in 2015 knew Nassar was accused of assaulting gymnasts, but they failed to act, leaving him free to continue targeting young women and girls for more than a year. year. He pleaded guilty in 2017 and is serving decades in prison.
“It’s time for the FBI to be held accountable,” said Maggie Nichols, national champion gymnast at Oklahoma in 2017-19.
Under federal law, a government agency has six months to respond to tort claims filed Wednesday. Prosecutions could follow, depending on the FBI’s response.
The roughly 90 plaintiffs include Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, all Olympic gold medalists, according to Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, a California law firm. Separately, 13 claims were filed by others in April.
“If the FBI had just done their job, Nassar would have been arrested before he even had the chance to abuse hundreds of girls, including me,” said former University of Michigan gymnast Samantha Roy.
Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics told local officials in 2015 that three gymnasts said they were assaulted by Nassar, a team doctor. But the FBI has not launched a formal investigation or notified federal or state authorities in Michigan, according to the Justice Department’s inspector general, an internal watchdog.
In 2016, Los Angeles officers opened a sex tourism investigation against Nassar and interviewed several victims, but also failed to alert authorities in Michigan, the inspector general said.
Nassar was not arrested until the fall of 2016 during a police investigation at Michigan State University, where he was a doctor.
The Michigan attorney general’s office eventually dealt with the assault charges against Nassar, while federal prosecutors in Grand Rapids, Michigan, filed a child pornography case.
The FBI declined to comment on the former gymnasts’ financial claims on Wednesday, instead referring to remarks last year by FBI Director Christopher Wray acknowledging major errors.
“I’m especially sorry that there were people in the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster in 2015 and failed. And that’s inexcusable,” Wray told victims at a hearing. in the Senate.
At that same hearing, Biles, widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time, said an “entire system” had enabled the abuse. Maroney recalled a “dead silence” when she spoke to FBI agents about Nassar.
The Justice Department said in May it would not pursue criminal charges against former officers accused of giving inaccurate or incomplete answers during the inspector general’s investigation.
Federal law enforcement failures led to significant settlements, including $127.5 million for the families of those killed or injured in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. The FBI received a tip about five weeks before 17 people were killed, but the tip was never passed on to the South Florida office.
Matthew Schneider, a former US attorney in Detroit, said “it’s virtually a certainty” that the government will settle the claims of Nassar’s victims.
“When FBI Director Wray admitted that the FBI had completely failed in its duty to protect these survivors, he essentially shut the door on a court battle,” Schneider said. “A regulation has a legal meaning, but it also has a good moral sense.”
Paul Figley, a professor at American University Law School and a former Justice Department litigator, said the government would have defenses.
“The tort claims law has worked very well for what it was supposed to do: help people injured in ordinary accidents” involving federal employees, Figley said. “The bad act here is what the doctor did.”
Michigan State University, which has also been accused of missing opportunities for many years to arrest Nassar, has agreed to pay $500 million to more than 300 women and girls who were assaulted by him . USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee have reached a $380 million settlement.
For more stories about Larry Nassar and the fallout from his years of sexual abuse of young women and girls: https://www.apnews.com/LarryNassar