Gymnasts and other victims of sports doctor Larry Nassar, who was convicted of multiple counts of sexual assault of minors among other charges, said they plan on Wednesday to file a series of tort claims against the Justice Department and the FBI seeking a collective total of about $1 billion, according to their legal team.
“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 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."
The claimants include some of America’s most celebrated Olympic and Team USA gymnasts, including Nichols, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney. This group includes former University of Michigan gymnast Samantha Roy and former gymnast and victim’s advocate Kaylee Lorincz.
Victims of Nassar are using the Federal Tort Claims Act, a 1946 law that provides a legal means for compensating individuals who have suffered personal injury, death, property loss or damage caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of an employee of the federal government.
The lawsuit comes as the Justice Department declined for the third time to pursue criminal charges against FBI agents who failed to properly investigate allegations of abuse by Nassar.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced last year that DOJ was reviewing its decision to not bring charges against two now-former FBI special agents who had first received the athletes' allegations.
Their actions were outlined in a damning inspector general report that drew outrage from lawmakers who demanded answers on why the department had not moved forward in prosecuting the two men. The report found the FBI was notified of Nassar's behavior, but failed to act for more than a year.
In a May statement, the Justice Department said the decision "reflects the recommendation of experienced prosecutors" but "does not in any way reflect a view that the investigation of Nassar was handled as it should have been, nor in any way reflects approval or disregard of the conduct of the former agents."
The amount of damages sought differs by claimant, but the total claims could exceed $1 billion, according to a group of lawyers from Manly Stewart & Finaldi, Pitt McGehee Palmer Bonanni & Rivers, Grewal Law and Drew, Cooper & Anding, and Gruel Mills, the firms representing the clients.
Hundreds of young women and girls came forward to accuse Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics national team doctor, of inappropriate or criminal behavior. Nassar pleaded guilty in 2017 in connection with crimes against several victims and was sentenced to 60 years behind bars for child pornography and other charges. He again pleaded guilty in 2018 and was sentenced to an additional 40 to 175 years for multiple counts of sexual assault of minors.
At a September congressional hearing, FBI Director Christopher Wray expressed outrage and sadness for the victims of Nassar's abuse and FBI inaction.
"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.