Justice Dept. Nears Settlement Over F.B.I.’s Failure to Investigate Larry Nassar

Equipo
By Equipo
5 Min Read

The Justice Department is nearing a $100 million settlement over its initial failure to investigate Lawrence G. Nassar, the former U.S.A. Gymnastics team doctor convicted of sexually abusing girls under his care, according to people familiar with the situation.

The deal, which could be announced in coming weeks, would bring an end to one of the last major cases stemming from a horrific sports scandal, with around 100 victims in line to receive compensation.

The approach of a settlement comes two and a half years after senior F.B.I. officials publicly admitted that agents had failed to take quick action when U.S. national team athletes complained about Mr. Nassar to the bureau’s Indianapolis field office in 2015, when Mr. Nassar was a respected physician known for working with Olympians and college athletes. He has been accused of abusing more than 150 women and girls over the years.

The broad outline of the deal is in place, but it has not yet been completed, according to several people with knowledge of the talks, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss continuing negotiations.

The details of the settlement deal were reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

It would be the latest in a series of big payouts that reflect the inability of institutions to protect hundreds of athletes — including the Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman — from a doctor who justified his serial sexual abuse by claiming he was using unconventional treatments.

In 2018, Michigan State University, which employed Mr. Nassar, paid more than $500 million into a victim compensation fund, believed to be the largest settlement by a university in a sexual abuse case. Three years later, U.S.A. Gymnastics and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee reached a $380 million settlement.

Many of the girls and women abused by Mr. Nassar have battled mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and some have attempted suicide because of the abuse, which Mr. Nassar perpetrated under the guise of medical treatment.

A 2021 report by the Justice Department’s inspector general found that senior F.B.I. officials in the Indianapolis field office failed to respond to the allegations “with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required” and that the investigation did not proceed until after the news media detailed Mr. Nassar’s abuse.

F.B.I. officials in the office also “made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond” to the allegations and failed to notify state or local authorities of the allegations or take other steps to address the threat posed by Mr. Nassar, the inspector general’s report said.

In heart-wrenching testimony two months later, former members of the national gymnastics team described how the F.B.I. had turned a blind eye to Mr. Nassar’s abuse as the investigation stalled and children suffered. Some, including Ms. Raisman, said that agents moved slowly to investigate even after they presented the bureau with graphic evidence of his actions.

The revelations prompted an extraordinary apology from the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, who did not oversee the bureau when the investigation began. “I am sorry that so many people let you down over and over again, and I am especially sorry that there were people at the F.B.I. who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015,” he said.

“It never should have happened, and we are doing everything in our power to make sure it never happens again,” he added.

The impending settlement is one of several that the Justice Department has reached over the past decade.

The others have involved victims of mass shootings. Families of 26 people killed in a 2017 shooting at a church in Texas received $144.5 million. The mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., resulted in the Justice Department paying families $127.5 million.

Mr. Nassar is serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison in Florida, where he was stabbed multiple times by an inmate in July. He suffered a collapsed lung but survived his injuries.

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