FBI Field Office Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Jay Abbott of the Indianapolis Field Office lied to cover up investigative missteps, the Justice Department’s inspector general said in a scathing report
The FBI’s 14-month-long failure to adequately investigate sexual abuse allegations against Larry Nassar allowed the former USA Gymnastics national team doctor to assault at least 70 more women and girls before he was finally arrested, according to a scathing report issued by the Justice Department’s inspector general.
The FBI made numerous serious errors in investigating allegations against Nassar, failing to act for months and attempting to cover up the bungling missteps.
In a scathing 119-page report, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis ‘failed to respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required.’
In particular, the report singles out Indianapolis Field Office Special Agent in Charge (SAC) W. Jay Abbott, saying he lied to cover up the investigative mistakes and missteps.
‘Abbott made materially false statements during his OIG interviews to minimize errors made by the Indianapolis Field Office in connection with the handling of the Nassar allegations,’ inspector general stated.
The inspector general writes that even after investigators first learned of possible criminal conduct by Nasser, Abbott submitted a resume in search of a job as chief security officer with USA Gymnastics, a violation of bureau ethics.
Abbott was not chosen for the position.
The report by Horowitz goes on to say: ‘The actions and inactions of the FBI employees described in the Report are inexcusable and a discredit to this organization and the values we hold dear.
‘At the FBI, we consider our mission to protect and serve the American people to be the highest responsibility.
‘The conduct and facts in the Report are appalling, and we appreciate your continued efforts to examine it and recommend further improvements and safeguards.’
The inspector general´s investigation was spurred by allegations that the FBI failed to promptly address complaints made in 2015 against Nassar.
USA Gymnastics contacted the FBI about the allegations in July 2015, but it took months before the agency opened a formal investigation.
Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in to sexual assault charges, is seen at his 2018 sentencing. The FBI seriously mishandled the case, the OIG found
Victims and others look on as Rachael Denhollander speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017
At least 40 girls and women said they were molested over a 14-month period while the FBI was aware of other sexual abuse allegations involving Nassar.
John Manly, an attorney for some of the victims, told The New York Times that the actual number of those who were abused may be even higher.
Manly said that as many as 120 women and girls were abused during the period when the FBI was made aware of the allegations. One of the victims was as young as eight years old, according to Manly.
‘This is a devastating indictment of the FBI and the Department of Justice that multiple federal agents covered up Nassar’s abuse and child molestation. No one seems to give a damn about these little girls,’ Manly said.
Nassar was ultimately charged in 2016 with federal child porn offenses and sexual abuse charges in Michigan.
He is now serving decades in prison after hundreds of girls and women said he sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment when he worked for Michigan State and Indiana-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.
The watchdog report on Wednesday raises serious questions about how the Justice Department and the FBI handled the case and highlights serious mistakes at the FBI between the time the allegations were first reported until Nassar’s arrest.
The report identifies ‘serious missteps’ in the FBI’s investigation, singling out officials in the Indianapolis Field Office who the inspector general says:
- Failed to formally document the July 28, 2015 meeting with USA Gymnastics where the FBI first received the allegations against Nassar
- Failed to properly handle and document key evidence, including a crucial thumb drive provided by USA Gymnastics President Stephen D. Penny Jr
- Failed to document a 2015 interview with a gymnast victim until February 2017
- Failed to transfer the Nassar allegations to the FBI Lansing Resident Agency, where it would have been be easiest to establish jurisdiction for a federal crime
The report says that SAC Abbott, in addition to lying to cover up the Indianapolis field office’s bungles, also committed a serious ethical breach by asking Penny about a job opportunity while the investigation was underway.
McKayla Maroney and Larry Nassar are seen at the Women’s Podium Training, 2013 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, in Antwerp, Belgium.
In a scathing 119-page report, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz (above) said the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis ‘failed to respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required’
Timeline of FBI missteps in the case
July 28, 2015: FBI first learns of allegations against Nassar
September 2, 2015: FBI interviews one gymnast but does not document the meeting for another 17 months or share the allegations raised
September 4, 2015: Abbott emails Penny and tells him ‘pertinent interviews have been completed’
October 2, 2015: SAC Abbott meets Penny in a bar and asks about a job with US Olympic Committee
May 11, 2016: After 8 months of FBI inactivity, USA Gymnastics officials meet with the Los Angeles Field Office to provide the the same information they had given to Indianapolis. The LA office opens an investigation
August 2016: Michigan State’s campus police receive a sexual assault complaint against Nasser and open an investigation
November 2016: Nassar is arrested on state charges in Michigan
July 2017: Nassar pleads guilty to state charges
December 2017: Nassar pleads guilty to federal charges
January 2018: Abbott retired from the FBI
‘Abbott communicated with Penny about the potential job opportunity while the two continued to discuss the allegations against Nassar and while Abbott took an active role in conversations about the FBI’s public statements regarding USA Gymnastics’ handling of those allegations,’ the Office of Inspector General said in a statement.
‘Abbott should have known—and we found that he in fact did know—that this conduct would raise questions regarding his impartiality,’ the OIG added.
The report said that Abbott applied for the open position with the U.S. Olympic Committee, and then falsely denied that he had done so when questioned by the OIG on two separate occasions.
Abbot violated FBI policy and exercised extremely poor judgment by taking these steps, the report found.
The report also said that an FBI Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) in Indianapolis, who is not named, waited 17 months after interviewing an alleged victim to draft the interview summary, and that the summary was then full of materially false statements, with key information also omitted.
However, the Justice Department has declined to prosecute Abbott and the unnamed SSA, the report added.
Among the numerous missteps identified included waiting five weeks before conducting a phone interview with one of the victim athletes, while failing to interview other victims, the report found.
In a statement, the FBI said: ‘This should not have happened. The FBI will never lose sight of the harm that Nassar´s abuse caused.’
Nassar was sentenced in federal court in 2017 to 60 years in prison on charges of possessing child sex abuse material.
The following year, he was also sentenced up to 175 years and up to 125 years, respectively, in two separate Michigan courts for molesting young female gymnasts under his care including Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney.
The inspector general’s investigation was launched in 2018 amid concerns that the FBI dragged its feet in opening a sexual abuse probe into Nassar despite receiving multiple complaints about him.