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$100 Million Settlement with DOJ over Larry Nassar Cases

As the country’s top gymnasts are feeling the pressure to qualify for the Summer Olympics in Paris, the story of how Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor who sexually abused hundreds of young women under the guise of medical treatment, is once again in the news.

However, this time with the heart-wrenching story comes vindication for the victims of Nassar, who is serving an effective life sentence for state convictions for sexually assaulting patients under his care and federal convictions relating to child pornography.

The northern facade of the Department of Justice building in the Nations capital

On April 23, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a settlement of $138.7 million with 139 women who accused the FBI of failing to respond to allegations against Nassar after the Agency received information of his alleged sexual abuse in 2015. 

The settlement includes women who filed administrative tort claims in April of 2022. Among the claimants are star gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, and Aly Raisman, as well as dozens of patients who were sexually assaulted by Nassar after the FBI was told of the sexual allegations.

The settlement is the third legal payout concerning liability for Nassar’s crimes. The others include a more than $500 million settlement between Michigan State University, where Nassar sexually abused college athletes while working as a staff doctor, and a $380-million settlement between USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee for more than 500 victims.

The FBI’s Failure

In July 2021, the Justice Department released its Inspector General’s report looking into the FBI’s handling of the sexual abuse allegations against Nassar. 

According to the report, in July 2015, officials at USA Gymnastics, headquartered in Indiana, gave the FBI’s Indianapolis field office information concerning allegations that Nassar sexually assaulted multiple gymnasts. However, even after months, the agents did not pursue a formal investigation and didn’t warn federal or state authorities in Michigan.

The report also said that FBI agents, including the agent in charge in Indianapolis, made false statements to inspector general investigators, and that the same agent violated ethics guidelines in October of 2015 when he discussed a job opportunity with the U.S. Olympic Committee while Nassar was under scrutiny. 

After the FBI’s inaction in Indianapolis, in May of 2016, USA Gymnastics officials contacted the FBI in Los Angeles, which resulted in the opening of a federal sexual tourism investigation against Nassar. 

However, just like in Indiana, the FBI in California did not reach out to any state or local authorities to share information. 

“Neither the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office nor the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office had previously informed the Lansing Resident Agency of the Nassar allegations,” the report concluded.

Nassar would ultimately be arrested in November 2016 and charged with federal child pornography offenses and sexual abuse charges in Michigan.

Support for Sexual Abuse Victims

In a statement released after the settlement was announced, acting associate attorney general Benjamin C. Mizer stressed that Nassar abused his position for decades while “skirting accountability.”

Mizer also admitted that although the financial settlement will not undo the harm Nassar inflicted on his victims, it is the hope that the money “will help give the victims of his crimes some of the critical support they need to continue healing.”

The FBI’s mishandling of the Nassar investigation also spurred Congress to institute new legislation to support young victims of sexual abuse with the Respect for Child Survivors Act.

Along with requiring the FBI to use “multidisciplinary teams” with trauma expertise when investigating child sexual abuse and trafficking cases, it also includes provisions designed to ensure that new cases are not stalled. 

President Biden signed the bill into law on January 5, 2023.