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FBI director details "totally unacceptable" failures in Larry Nassar case

Washington — FBI Director Christopher Wray said federal investigators made "totally unacceptable" errors in failing to investigate allegations of sexual assault by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar in 2015 and 2016, telling senators on Wednesday that an agent who failed to act on one gymnast's accusations and later lied about his actions has recently been fired.

Wray appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee alongside Inspector General Michael Horowitz to testify about the bureau's July report in the case against Nassar, who has been sentenced to over 100 years in prison for sexual abusing dozens of young gymnasts and child pornography. Wray said Michael Langeman, formerly a supervisory special agent in the FBI's Indianapolis field office, was fired two weeks ago.

"When I received the inspector general's report and saw that the supervisory special agent in Indianapolis had failed to carry out even the most basic parts of the job, I immediately made sure he was no longer performing the functions of a special agent," Wray said. "And I can now tell you that individual no longer works for the FBI in any capacity." 

US Gymnasts Testify As Senate Examines FBI's Handling Of Larry Nassar Investigation
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies during a Senate Judiciary hearing about the inspector general's report on the FBI's handling of the Larry Nassar investigation on Capitol Hill on September 15, 2021, in Washington, D.C. GRAEME JENNINGS / Getty Images

The first half of Wednesday's hearing featured emotional testimony by four elite gymnasts —  Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols — who said Nassar sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment during his time as a USA Gymnastics doctor.

Maroney recalled speaking with the FBI in the summer of 2015 and providing "extreme detail" about Nassar's abuse during a nearly three-hour phone interview. But the bureau failed to proceed with an investigation into his alleged misconduct until more than a year later, as revealed by a blistering inspector general's report in July.

Maroney said her interview with the bureau was not documented until 17 months later, and she accused the FBI of making "entirely false claims" about what she told them. 

"They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others," she said, accusing the bureau, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee of working together to conceal the allegations against Nassar.

Wray said the FBI agents "betrayed the core duty that they have of protecting people" and "failed to protect young women and girls from abuse."

The July report by Horowitz's office harshly criticized the supervisory special agent in the FBI's Indianapolis office, now known to be Langeman, and Jay Abbott, the agent in charge of the FBI's Indianapolis field office, for bungling the Nassar case and later lying about it. Abbott retired in 2018.

The report said the FBI's Indianapolis field office first learned of the accusations in July 2015 after USA Gymnastics conducted its own internal investigation. But the FBI did not open an investigation in Michigan, where the abuse occurred and where Nassar was still working at Michigan State University, until October 2016. The FBI did not take action until USA Gymnastics filed a new complaint in Los Angeles following months of inactivity in Indianapolis, the report said.

Citing civil court documents, Horowitz testified that "approximately 70 or more young athletes were allegedly sexually abused by Nassar under the guise of medical treatment between July of 2015 — when the FBI first received these allegations — until September 2016."

Nassar abused additional athletes after the allegations were first brought to the FBI's attention, the report said. The inspector general also accused the FBI of failing to "formally document" the initial meeting when the allegations were brought to their attention.

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said he was infuriated that FBI agents "made material, false statements and deceptive omissions." Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, the committee's chairman, called the FBI's botched investigation a "dereliction of duty" and "systematic organizational failure."

"It shocks the conscience when the failures come from law enforcement itself, yet that's exactly what happened in the Nassar case," Durbin said. The senator added that he was "disappointed" by the Justice Department's decision not to testify at Wednesday's hearing. 

Horowitz testified that he referred agents' conduct for criminal prosecution to attorneys at the the Justice Department. When asked by CBS News about top department officials' absence, a Justice Department official cited longstanding department policy against testifying to Congress about declining to prosecute cases. No charges have been brought against the agents, a fact that infuriated senators. 

"I don't have a good explanation for you," Wray testified, noting he felt "heartsick and furious" when he learned of the FBI's failures in the Nassar investigation. "It is utterly jarring to me. It is totally inconsistent with what we train our people on and totally inconsistent from what I see from the hundreds of agents that work these cases every day."

Wray added that over the past five years, the bureau and its partners "have made 16,000 arrests of people like Mr. Nassar."

"It gives you a sense of just the sheer scale of this kind of abuse in this country," Wray said. "Because I have no doubt that for the 16,000 arrests that we made, lord knows how many other predators that are out there that we didn't get."

"It's not just about these survivors. It's not just about gymnastics. It's not even necessarily about the Olympics," Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas said Wednesday. "This challenge is pervasive in our country, in our society, in our culture."

Melissa Quinn, Jordan Freiman and Andres Triay contributed to this report.

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