By Zachary Stieber
Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles and dozens of other women who say they were sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar are seeking more than $1 billion from the FBI for failing to stop the sports doctor when the agency first received allegations against him, lawyers said on June 8.
“It is time for the FBI to be held accountable,” said Maggie Nichols, a national champion gymnast at Oklahoma from 2017–2019.
Nassar pleaded guilty in 2017 and is serving decades in prison, but his assaults continued after the allegations were reported to the FBI, which has acknowledged mishandling the matter.
Under federal law, a government agency has six months to respond to the tort claims filed Wednesday. Lawsuits could follow, depending on the FBI’s response. The bureau did not respond to a request for comment.
The bureau received a tip about five weeks before 17 people were killed at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but never forwarded the tip to its office in southern Florida. The government later agreed to pay about $130 million to families of those killed or injured.
The approximately 90 claimants in the new case 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 simply done its job, Nassar would have been stopped before he ever had the chance to abuse hundreds of girls, including me,” said former University of Michigan gymnast Samantha Roy.
The sexual assault allegations were first reported to the FBI in July 2015 by USA Gymnastics official Stephen Penny. Officials with the gymnastics organization later went to another FBI office because little seemed to be done by the bureau.
A report from the inspector general for the Department of Justice (DOJ) probe found that the FBI failed to respond to allegations against Nassar “with the utmost seriousness and urgency that the allegations deserved and required,” including a failure to alert state or local authorities to the accusations.
Additionally, two FBI officials lied during their interviews to cover up or minimize what happened, Inspector General Michael Horowitz said.
“The FBI made me feel like my abuse did not count,” Raisman told a congressional hearing in 2021.
Christopher Wray, the FBI’s director, said later in the hearing that he was “deeply sorry for what our folks did.”
“I’m especially sorry that there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed. And that’s inexcusable,” he added.
The Department of Justice, the FBI’s parent agency, has twice chosen not to prosecute the agents involved.
The latest decision was announced in May.
“This decision comes after multiple reviews and analyses of evidence gathered in the investigation of the former agents, and reflects the recommendation of experienced prosecutors. This does not in any way reflect a view that the investigation of Nassar was handled as it should have been, nor in any way reflect approval or disregard of the conduct of the former agents,” the agency said at the time.
One of the agents, W. Jay Abbott, retired in 2018. The other, Michael Langeman, was reportedly fired in 2021.
Mimi Nguyen Ly and The Associated Press contributed to this report.