INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis FBI office and the headquarters of USA Gymnastics located in downtown Indianapolis were both roundly blasted on Capitol Hill Wednesday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into the sexual abuse of female gymnasts by former team doctor Larry Nassar.
Nassar is serving sixty years in prison, the head of the local FBI office retired and the agent in charge of the investigation, Michael Langeman, was fired this week.
It took the investigative team at the Indy Star in 2016 to break the scandal and give voice to the dozens of young women who were assaulted by Nassar.
“USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the FBI have all betrayed me and all of those abused by Larry Nassar after I reported,” said Gymnast Maggie Nichols who told the senators that those entities all conspired to “cover-up” Nassar’s crimes.
“The FBI, USOC and USAG sat idly by as dozens of girls and women continued to be molested by Larry Nassar,” said Gymnast McKayla Maroney. “What is the point of reporting such abuse if our own FBI agents are going to take it upon themselves to bury that report in a drawer?”
An investigation released this summer by the FBI’s Office of Inspector General determined that 17 months elapsed between the first tips to the FBI that Nassar was abusing athletes and the follow-up to that report.
Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed before the Senate committee that Agent Michael Langeman, the Indianapolis-based agent in charge of the investigation, was fired this week.
His boss, former Special Agent in Charge of the Indianapolis office Jay Abbott, retired during the initial investigation but was found to have expressed interest in the job of security director at USAG while the probe was continuing.
Steve Penny, the President & CEO of USAG at the time, confirmed that Abbott interviewed for the post but was not hired.
“The record establishes that Steve Penny, FBI Agent Jay Abbott and their subordinates worked to conceal Nassar’s crimes,” said Gymnast Aly Raisman. “The special agent in charge of investigating Nassar met Steve Penny for beers to discuss job opportunities in the Olympic movement.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray told senators that in the wake of the Nassar case, the Bureau has made significant changes in the way allegations of child sexual abuse are reported and investigated.
“It’s my commitment to you that I and my entire leadership team are gonna make damn sure that everybody at the FBI remembers what happened here in heartbreaking detail,” he said. “We need to remember the pain that occurred when our folks failed to do their jobs.”
A former top FBI official told FOX59 News that the athletes were victimized twice: once by Nassar and again by the system that should have protected them.
“The FBI failed them and owes them an apology,” said Tim Gallagher, former Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Newark Field Office and current Managing Director of the Kroll Cyber Risk Practice. “I’m embarrassed. There’s professional embarrassment for the way the FBI handled this matter.”
Gallagher said agents failed to follow standard procedure by not referring the initial reports to other FBI field offices or local police for investigation.
“It’s not just putting it into the system and saying, ‘Well, this is Detroit’s issue now,’ or, ‘Los Angeles’ issue now.’ You document it, you put it in the system, you pick up the phone and call.”
Both the athletes and the senators questioned Wray to no avail to explain the Justice Department’s decision to not prosecute either Abbott or Langeman for their roles in the botched investigation and their alleged perjury when questioned by the Office of Inspector General.
“There were several bright lines here that were crossed and one of them is lying,” said Gallagher. “You cannot lie to impede an investigation or make yourself look better and, according to what the OIG found, it appears that this was the case.
“It comes down to intent and what the overall impact to the matter was that a false statement may have made and whether they think they can get a conviction by putting it in front of a jury.”
Abbott, the Indianapolis FBI Field Office, and USAG did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday’s hearing.