Simone Biles, Other Gymnasts Assert $1 Billion Claims Against FBI

Image by Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP

On Wednesday, lawyers for Simone Biles and other gymnasts announced they were asserting claims against the FBI over the agency’s botched handling of the Larry Nassar case. Nassar pleaded guilty in 2017 and 2018 to multiple state and federal charges including child pornography, evidence tampering, and sexual assault of minors, and was sentenced to over 100 years in prison.

Per the AP:

DETROIT (AP) — Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles and dozens of other women who say they were sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar are seeking more than $1 billion from the FBI for failing to stop the sports doctor when the agency first received allegations against him, lawyers said Wednesday.

There’s no dispute that FBI agents in 2015 knew that the now-imprisoned Nassar was accused of assaulting gymnasts, but they failed to act, leaving him free to continue to target young women and girls for more than a year. He pleaded guilty in 2017 and is serving decades in prison.

“It is time for the FBI to be held accountable,” said Maggie Nichols, a national champion gymnast at Oklahoma in 2017-19.

Under federal law, a government agency has six months to respond to the tort claims filed Wednesday. Lawsuits could follow, depending on the FBI’s response.

The claims are being filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which is a federal statute that permits private individuals to bring claims against the federal government. It’s an administrative procedure that provides a limited waiver to the general rule of sovereign immunity, which generally insulates the government from civil liability. These administrative claims must be filed first, before a lawsuit can be pursued. As noted above, the agency has six months to respond to the claims, and that will then determine the claimants’ next steps.

The FBI was first alerted to issues with Nassar in 2015 by several gymnasts who said they were assaulted by the team doctor. However, Nassar was not arrested until late 2016. In that time, multiple young women were assaulted by him.

“The FBI knew that Larry Nassar was a danger to children when his abuse of me was first reported in September of 2015,” gymnast Maggie Nichols, a Team USA member and NCAA National Champion, said in a statement. “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.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before Congress in 2021. Per ABC:

At a September Congressional hearing FBI Director Christopher Wray expressed outrage and sadness for the victims of Nassar’s abuse and FBI inaction.

A Department of Justice inspector general’s report found the FBI was notified of Nassar’s behavior, but failed to act for more than a year.

“I’m sorry for what you and your families have been through,” Wray told the Senate judiciary committee. “I’m sorry that so many different people let you down, over and over again. And I’m especially sorry that there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in in 2015 and failed.”

Wray said the allegations happened before he was director, but is doing everything in his power to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

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