Biles, Raisman, Maroney and Nichols testify in Nassar hearing

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NYT > Sports

WASHINGTON – FBI Director Christopher Wray and several elite gymnasts including Simone Biles testify at a Senate hearing about the agency’s botched handling of the Lawrence G. Nassar sexual abuse case, the first public questioning of the failure to duly testify to investigate the largest cases of sexual abuse in United States history.

McKayla Maroney, a former Olympic gymnast, told the Senate Justice Committee that she spent hours telling FBI agents that Nassar repeatedly sexually abused her, only to later misrepresent her statements.

“Not only did the FBI fail to report my abuse, but when they finally documented my report 17 months later, they made completely false claims about what I said,” Maroney said. She said she was 15 when she spoke to agents. “You chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester instead of protecting not just me but countless others.”

The hearing comes days after the FBI fired an agent who initially worked on the case investigating Nassar, the former national gymnastics team doctor who ended up under the guise of physical exams for abusing numerous gymnasts, including Olympians was convicted.

And it comes two months after the Inspector General of the Department of Justice published a report harshly criticizing the FBI for making critical mistakes on the matter. These mistakes allowed Nassar to treat patients for eight months at Michigan State University, where he practiced, and in and around Lansing, Michigan, including a local gymnastics center and high school.

Nassar, who is serving a life sentence for sexual misconduct, has molested more than 70 girls and women while the FBI has not responded, the inspector general’s report said.

Two FBI agents who were originally on the case no longer work for the agency. Michael Langeman, an oversight specialty agent in the FBI’s Indianapolis office, was released in the days leading up to Wednesday’s hearing, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. These people didn’t want their names published because they didn’t have the authority to speak on the case. The Washington Post was the first to publish news of Langeman’s dismissal.

Langeman, who was not immediately available for comment, was not named in the Inspector General’s report, but his actions as a special inspector and his numerous key missteps were detailed. The report said Langeman should have known that Nassar’s abuse was likely to be widespread, but he did not investigate the case urgently.

Langeman interviewed only one of the three elite gymnasts who shared details of Nassar’s abuse with USA Gymnastics, and did not properly document that interview or open an investigation. In an interview report that Langeman submitted to the FBI 17 months after speaking with this gymnast – Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney, who was not named in the report – he added statements she had not made, according to the report.

Like other agents originally involved in the case, Langeman did not warn local or state officials of Nassar’s alleged abuse and violated FBI policy that crimes against children “invariably require a broad, multi-judicial, multi-disciplinary approach” .

Langeman later said he filed an initial report on Nassar and asked that the case be transferred to the Lansing office, since Nassar was based there in the state of Michigan. But the paperwork was not found in the FBI database, according to the Inspector General’s report.

W. Jay Abbott, a special agent in the FBI’s Indianapolis office, is also no longer with the FBI after retiring in 2018. The report said he misrepresented Justice Department investigators and also “violated FBI guidelines and exercised extremely poor judgment on federal ethics rules.” According to the report, he was looking for a job with the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and with Steve Penny, then President of USA Gymnastics, spoke about it. Abbott applied for the position with USOPC but didn’t get the job – but told Justice Department investigators that he never applied.

Hundreds of girls and women who have been molested by Nassar are waiting to hear from the FBI about the errors in the case. Biles, the Olympic gold medalist, has been vocal about wanting to know “who knew what and when” about Nassar. She won a silver and a bronze medal at the Tokyo Games after abandoning the team competition due to a mental health problem.

Biles testifies along with former teammates Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, known as “Athlete A” in the Nassar case for being the first elite gymnast to report the abuse to USA Gymnastics. That was in July 2015. The FBI’s Lansing office opened its official investigation into Nassar in October 2016.

Adam Goldman contributed the coverage from Washington.

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