A group representing 90 young women — including U.S. Olympic team gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman — filed federal tort claims against the FBI on Wednesday, seeking more than $1 billion in damages for the bureau’s mishandling of its investigation into sexual abuse by former U.S. Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar.
The majority of the claimants say Nassar abused them after his abuse was reported to the FBI in 2015, during a yearlong period in which no meaningful investigative action was taken and Nassar continued to sexually abuse young women and children. Many are athletes who were associated with the USA Gymnastics program or with Michigan State University, where Nassar maintained a clinic.
The Justice Department announced just before the Memorial Day weekend that the individual FBI agents whom the inspector general identified as responsible for the failure of the investigation — and for subsequent attempts to mislead investigators for the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General — would not face charges.
“My fellow survivors and I were betrayed by every institution that was supposed to protect us — the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, the FBI and now the Department of Justice,” Maroney, an Olympic gold medalist, said in a statement. “It is clear that the only path to justice and healing is through the legal process.”
The Collective Administrative Claims are being filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which enables people who have been harmed by negligent or wrongful actions of the federal government to seek redress.
Thirteen other Nassar victims filed similar claims against the FBI in April. While Wednesday’s filing was not the first under the act, it is the largest, and it includes the most prominent of Nassar’s accusers. Raisman, Maroney and others have testified before Congress, calling for accountability at the FBI.
The claims detail a yearlong gap between when the FBI first received reports of Nassar’s abuse of gymnasts on the U.S. national team and his eventual arrest as a result of a local law enforcement investigation, not the FBI's.
“The FBI knew that Larry Nassar was a danger to children when his abuse of me was first reported in September of 2015. For 421 days they worked with USA Gymnastics and USOPC to hide this information from the public and allowed Nassar to continue molesting young women and girls. It is time for the FBI to be held accountable,” said NCAA national champion gymnast Maggie Nichols, the first Nassar victim whose case was reported to the FBI’s Indianapolis field office. (USOPC is the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.)
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The FBI declined to comment, and referred NBC News to the Congressional testimony of FBI Director Christopher Wray, in which he acknowledged that “people at the FBI had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed.”
Nassar pleaded guilty in 2018 to abusing 10 of the more than 265 patients who came forward to say they had been molested. He is serving up to 175 years in prison.