October 23, 2021

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DOJ to review decision not to prosecute FBI agents who mishandled Nassar sex abuse case

The move follows tear-jerking Senate testimony that took place last month during which U.S. Olympic gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, and Maggie Nichols called out the FBI and Justice Department’s handling of the investigation into allegations of Nassar’s abuse. The hearing was part of a congressional effort to hold the FBI accountable for a botched investigation into allegations against Nassar, including delays in reporting that allowed Nassar to continue abusing other young gymnasts.

“They allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year and this inaction directly allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue,” Maroney told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 15.  “After telling my entire story of abuse to the FBI in the summer of 2015, not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said,” Maroney said.

While Nassar was found guilty and sentenced in 2018, reports indicated two FBI officials investigating the abuse allegations against Nassar violated the agency’s policies by making false statements and failing to properly document complaints by the accusers. Yet the Justice Department did not charge the two officials, identified as Michael Langeman and Jay Abbott. Instead, the only action that was allegedly taken in terms of accountability was firing Langeman. Abbott had retired by 2018.

During the hearing Tuesday, Monaco stressed that a review would be conducted with a “sense of urgency and gravity” due to new information, and also addressed questions regarding a statute of limitations for lying to the FBI or other potential criminal acts in the case, which may have run out.

“The survivors who testified so bravely deserve better than they got from the FBI and the Justice Department,” Monaco said. She also apologized to the gymnasts, saying: “I am deeply sorry that in this case the victims did not receive the response or the protection that they deserved.”

But while she noted the survivors deserved better and apologized, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Justice Department not only failed to send a representative to last month’s hearing—a fact some Senate members addressed Tuesday—but failed to assert charges in the first place despite the evidence.

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn not only called the lack of presence at last month’s hearing “profound disrespect” for the plight of victims, but noted that the acknowledgment of needed justice was delayed.

“You are about three weeks too late,” Cornyn said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin expressed similar sentiments, noting that the FBI’s handling of the case remains “a stain” on the agency.

“The FBI failed them,” Durbin said Tuesday when referring to Nassar’s victims. “Our government failed them; we failed them.”

He emphasized that many people are currently in jail for lying to the government, yet these FBI agents walked free of charges.

“People are charged with the crime of lying to the government and are held accountable, and some are in prison for the very act that appears to have taken place here. And yet, the decision not to prosecute is one which most of us don’t even understand,” Durbin said.

According to The Washington Post, it is rare for the Justice Department to even consider reopening a case that has been closed without charges. However, last week, following widespread criticism, Monaco urged prosecutors and agents to work more closely with state and local law enforcement about potential crimes that may fall outside federal law but still be worth pursuing.

“Even in those instances where the federal government cannot bring its own criminal charges, our obligation to protect crime victims and ensure public safety does not end,” Monaco wrote in the memo. “Instead, proper coordination with state, local, or tribal law enforcement partners may become more important, particularly in the face of apparent, ongoing criminal behavior that puts victims at risk.”

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