FBI May Face Liability for Delayed Investigation of Larry Nassar

For two decades, sports doctor Larry Nassar sexually abused hundreds of women while working for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team and Michigan State University. Nassar was arrested and indicted in 2016 following an investigation by university police. He was eventually sentenced to decades in both state and federal prison, based on Michigan sexual assault charges and federal child pornography charges. However, news emerged that the FBI became aware of Nassar’s misconduct over a year before his arrest and indictment. A group of women abused by Nassar, such as Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and McKayla Maroney, are now suing the FBI for failing to take action at that time.

The victims argue that the FBI could have prevented many incidents of Nassar’s abuse by acting on reports received in 2015 from USA Gymnastics. Rather than following up on these reports, the FBI failed to investigate or even inform federal or state authorities. In 2016, FBI agents in California investigated allegations of “sexual tourism” against the doctor. They did not proceed beyond interviewing victims and again failed to inform state authorities. The FBI has acknowledged and apologized for its errors and the resulting harm.

The 90 women bringing the claim are seeking $1 billion in damages. (A claim on similar grounds against Michigan State University resulted in a $500 million settlement with hundreds of Nassar’s victims.) Once a claim is filed against the FBI or another federal agency, the Federal Tort Claims Act allows six months to accept or reject the claim. If the agency rejects a claim or fails to provide satisfactory compensation, claimants have six months to file a lawsuit in court. If the agency fails to accept or reject a claim within six months of filing, claimants also may proceed in court.

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