A group of the victims of former U.S. women’s national gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar announced this week that they intend to file a series of claims for legal damages against the Department of Justice and the FBI. The claims are believed to be for a total of around $1 billion, based on statements by the victims’ attorneys.
In a statement announcing the claims, Team USA member and NCAA champion gymnast Maggie Nichols said that the FBI knew that Nassar was a grave danger to children when his abuse of her was first reported in September 2015. She said the agency worked with the US team to conceal Nassar’s abuse from the public for “421 days” and allowed him to continue molesting girls.
The victims are proceeding under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), the law that sets out the procedures for persons who have suffered personal injuries to make claims for the negligent or wrongful acts of federal government employees.
The claims under the FTCA were announced after the Justice Department declined to pursue criminal charges against FBI agents for the third time for not properly investigating abuse allegations made against Nassar. The DOJ said last month that the decision comes at the “recommendation of experienced prosecutors” but does not serve as an endorsement of how the Nassar investigation was handled.
An FBI inspector general’s report found that two FBI special agents were adequately notified of Nassar’s criminal activity but failed to take action for more than a year. Those agents are no longer employed by the FBI. Lawmakers demanded answers about the decision not to prosecute the two former agents, which led Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco to annonce last year that the decision was being reviewed by the DOJ.
Hundreds of young women and girls eventually came forward to accuse Nassar of illegal sexaul assaults.
Nassar was convicted of multiple charges including sexual assault against minors following his guilty plea in 2017. He was sentenced on those convictions to 60 years in prison. He pleaded guilty in 2018 to additional charges of sexual assault of minor victims and was sentenced to an additional 40 to 175 years.
At a hearing last September before the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the committee that he was outraged by the agency’s inaction and expressed sadness for Nassar’s victims.
He said that although the department’s failures in the Nassar case came before he was director, he was doing everything he could to keep anything of that nature from happening again. James Comey was FBI Director from 2013 through 2017.