Justice Dept. Won’t Prosecute Ex-F.B.I. Agents Accused of Mishandling Nassar Case
WASHINGTON — Two former F.B.I. agents accused of bungling the bureau’s investigation of Lawrence G. Nassar, the former doctor for U.S.A. Gymnastics who was convicted on state sex abuse and federal child pornography charges, will not be prosecuted, the Justice Department said on Thursday.
The decision ends a review the department initiated in October, months after its inspector general issued a scathing report that sharply criticized the F.B.I.’s handling of the case, which was brought to the bureau’s Indianapolis office in July 2015.
The F.B.I.’s failure to act on the information it received allowed Mr. Nassar to assault additional girls. Hundreds of female patients, including many members of the U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics teams, say he abused them under the guise of medical treatment.
The former agents, W. Jay Abbott, who was in charge of the bureau’s Indianapolis field office, and Michael Langeman, who worked in that office, were accused by the Justice Department’s watchdog of making false statements when it reviewed the matter.
“This does not in any way reflect a view that the investigation of Nassar was handled as it should have been, nor in any way reflect approval or disregard of the conduct of the former agents,” the department said in a statement, adding that the decision reflected the guidance of experienced prosecutors.
Even as the Justice Department acknowledged that the agents appeared to have made false statements, it said that prosecutors did not have enough evidence to bring criminal charges.
Mr. Nassar’s victims and their representatives excoriated the decision.
“The continued failure by the Department of Justice to criminally charge the F.B.I. agents, U.S.A. Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials who conspired to cover up the largest sex abuse scandal in the history of sport is incomprehensible,” said John C. Manly, a lawyer who represented some of the survivors.
Last summer, the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, accused Mr. Abbott of giving false statements to his investigators numerous times when asked about the Nassar case, “to minimize errors made by the Indianapolis field office in connection with the handling of the Nassar allegations.”
He also said that Mr. Abbott violated F.B.I. policy by discussing potential job opportunities with U.S.A. Gymnastics at the same time that he spoke to the organization about the allegations against Mr. Nassar.
Mr. Abbott retired from the F.B.I. in 2018, three years before the inspector general completed his report. Mr. Langeman was fired soon after the report was released. But the Justice Department chose not to prosecute either man.
Mr. Nassar’s victims, their families and members of Congress were outraged by the inspector general’s findings and the Justice Department’s decision not to explore whether the F.B.I. agents should be criminally charged on suspicion of lying to investigators.
Three months later, Ms. Monaco told Congress that new information had come to light, prompting her to have the head of the department’s criminal division review the matter.
“I want the survivors to understand how exceptionally seriously we take this issue and believe that this deserves a thorough and full review,” Ms. Monaco said last October.
The victims “were promised action” by Ms. Monaco, Mr. Manly said. “There was no action for more than six months and now this promise to survivors has been broken.”
The F.B.I. met in 2015 with several gymnasts who accused Mr. Nassar of abuse, including McKayla Maroney, an Olympic gold medalist who detailed those allegations in a three-hour interview. She testified before Congress that the F.B.I. responded to her account by saying, “Is that all?”
“Not only did the F.B.I. not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said,” Ms. Maroney said. “They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester.”
Mr. Nassar continued to sexually assault scores of girls after Ms. Maroney spoke with the F.B.I. and was charged by the State of Michigan in 2017. He is serving what amounts to life in prison.