US government agrees to $138.7M settlement over FBI’s botching of Larry Nassar assault allegations

FILE -In this Jan. 24, 2018, file photo, victims react and hug Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis after Larry Nassar was sentenced by Judge Rosemarie Aquilina to 40 to 175 years in prison during a sentencing hearing in Lansing, Mich. The U.S. Justice Department announced a $138.7 million settlement Tuesday, April 23, 2024, with more than 100 people who accused the FBI of grossly mishandling allegations of sexual assault against Larry Nassar in 2015 and 2016, a critical time gap that allowed the sports doctor to continue to prey on victims before his arrest. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

By Associated Press

April 24, 2024

DETROIT—The US Justice Department announced a $138.7 million settlement Tuesday with more than 100 people who accused the FBI of grossly mishandling allegations of sexual assault against Larry Nassar in 2015 and 2016, a critical time gap that allowed the sports doctor to continue to prey on victims before his arrest.

When combined with other settlements, $1 billion now has been set aside by various organizations to compensate hundreds of women who said Nassar assaulted them under the guise of treatment for sports injuries.

Nassar worked at Michigan State University and also served as a team doctor at Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics. He’s now serving decades in prison for assaulting female athletes, including medal-winning Olympic gymnasts.

Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin Mizer said Nassar betrayed the trust of those in his care for decades, and that the “allegations should have been taken seriously from the outset.”

“While these settlements won’t undo the harm Nassar inflicted, our hope is that they will help give the victims of his crimes some of the critical support they need to continue healing,” Mizer said of the agreement to settle 139 claims.

The Justice Department has acknowledged that it failed to step in. For more than a year, FBI agents in Indianapolis and Los Angeles had knowledge of allegations against him but apparently took no action, an internal investigation found.

FBI Director Christopher Wray was contrite — and very blunt — when he spoke to survivors at a Senate hearing in 2021. The assault survivors include decorated Olympians Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney.

“I’m sorry that so many different people let you down, over and over again,” Wray said. “And I’m especially sorry that there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed.”

After a search, investigators said in 2016 that they had found images of child sex abuse and followed up with federal charges against Nassar. Separately, the Michigan attorney general’s office handled the assault charges that ultimately shocked the sports world and led to an extraordinary dayslong sentencing hearing with gripping testimony about his crimes.

“I’m deeply grateful. Accountability with the Justice Department has been a long time in coming,” said Rachael Denhollander of Louisville, Kentucky, who is not part of the latest settlement but was the first person to publicly step forward and detail abuse at the hands of Nassar.

“The unfortunate reality is that what we are seeing today is something that most survivors never see,” Denhollander told The Associated Press. “Most survivors never see accountability. Most survivors never see justice. Most survivors never get restitution.”

Michigan State University, which was also accused of missing chances over many years to stop Nassar, agreed to pay $500 million to more than 300 women and girls who were assaulted. USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee made a $380 million settlement.

Mick Grewal, an attorney who represented 44 people in claims against the government, said the $1 billion in overall settlements speaks to “the travesty that occurred.”

A retired federal judge, Gregory Sleet, served as a mediator in the federal claims.

“It took more than six years of tears, pain, and unrelenting effort by Nassar’s victims, including many of our nation’s most celebrated athletes, to shine the bright light of justice on the horrific misconduct by senior officials in the FBI and demand accountability,” said John Manly, one of the lead attorneys.

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