The Federal Bureau of Investigation is being accused of wasting too much time investigating allegations that sports doctor Larry Nassar was molesting young patients, many of whom were Olympic gold medal-winning gymnasts. The investigation continued for more than a year during which time many more young women were molested, critics say.
Nassar has been sentenced for multiple violations of the law including molesting his often pre-teen female patients, but now some are criticizing the FBI for wasting time over jurisdictional issues and moving at a snail’s pace with its investigation even as the victims were increasing with each month that passed.
The case against Nassar was churning in the FBI offices of four states apparently starting as early as 2015. The first office to be set onto Nassar’s scent was the Indianapolis office. But soon investigations were also opened in California, Texas, and Michigan.
This uncoordinated approach seems to have caused delays as the offices investigated Nassar in fits and starts and with “little evident urgency,” according to The New York Times. And it was all at a steep cost:
But as the inquiry moved with little evident urgency, a cost was being paid. The New York Times has identified at least 40 girls and women who say that Dr. Nassar molested them between July 2015, when he first fell under F.B.I. scrutiny, and September 2016, when he was exposed by an Indianapolis Star investigation. Some are among the youngest of the now-convicted predator’s many accusers — 265, and counting.
Indeed, one of Nassar’s accusers insists that she was never contacted by the FBI during the entire plodding investigation.
“I never got a phone call from the police or the F.B.I.” said the mother of one of the molested girls, Gina Nichols. “Not one person. Not one. Not one. Not one.”
As the Times notes, the 2015 investigation ground on for well over a year. Meantime, in the Indianapolis office, the investigation into allegations of child molesting by former TV spokesman Jared Vogel sprang up and was concluded with a conviction. Even as the Nassar case was still percolating on a slow boil.
The paper reports that FBI officials had videos that showed the suspect’s “unusual” muscle manipulation techniques always conducted with un-gloved hands. One agent was quoted as saying how uncomfortable agents were watching the videos as the doctor was pushing his fingers into his patients’ most private places.
“I will never forget sitting around the table and thinking, What?” retired agent W. Jay Abbott said. “And the reaction of my special agents who were very well versed in this was one of disgust. That is why we worked it with such urgency.”
“At the time, it was being portrayed as a legitimate medical procedure. But to the layman, like ourselves, we were — ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,'” Abbott added.
Even as all these investigations across four states continued, Dr. Nassar was seeing — and molesting — even more girls.
As the case surpassed the 300-day mark and stretched into 2016, some of the victims finally started seeing visits by the FBI with agents asking them questions and taking evidence.
A lawyer for one of the victims also wondered why everything was taking so long. Attorney John Manly was hired by a gymnast’s mother but found a great lag time between their first contact with the Bureau and any sense that things were progressing toward an arrest.
Manly criticized the disjointed nature of the FBI’s various investigations saying, “Given who these women were, all competing for their country, and given that these assaults had occurred in different states and countries, there was an obvious need to have a multilayered, multijurisdictional investigation.”
Nassar was finally taken into custody late in 2016 well over a year after the FBI first became involved in the case. During that time Nassar was continuing his practices on dozens of young woman all across the country. And victims want to know why he was allowed such leeway.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.