WASHINGTON – FBI Director Christopher Wray and several elite gymnasts, including Simone Biles, will testify at a Senate hearing Wednesday on the agency’s botched handling of the Lawrence G. Nassar, the first public questioning of the failure to investigate one of the biggest cases of sexual abuse in US history.
The hearing comes days after the FBI fired an agent who initially worked on the case investigating Nassar, the former national gymnastics team doctor who was ultimately found guilty of abusing numerous gymnasts, including Olympians, under the guise of physical exams.
And it comes two months after the Justice Department’s Inspector General released a report that sharply criticized the FBI for making critical mistakes in the matter. These errors allowed Nassar to continue treating patients for eight months at Michigan State University, where he practiced, and in and around Lansing, Michigan, including a local gymnastics center and high school.
Nassar, who is serving what amounts to life in prison for sexual misconduct, was able to assault more than 70 girls and women when the FBI failed to act, according to the Inspector General’s report.
Two FBI agents originally assigned to the case no longer work for the agency. Michael Langeman, a special surveillance agent with the FBI’s office in Indianapolis, was fired in the days leading up to Wednesday’s hearing, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. These people did not want their names published because they did not have the authority to speak about the matter. The Washington Post was the first to report on Langeman’s dismissal.
Langeman, who was not immediately available for comment, was not named in the Inspector General’s report, but his actions as a special oversight officer and multiple critical missteps have been described in detail. The report says Langeman should have known that Nassar’s abuse was likely widespread, but he did not investigate the matter urgently.
Langeman only interviewed one of the three elite gymnasts who gave USA Gymnastics details of Nassar’s abuse and failed to properly document that interview or open an investigation. In an interview report filed with the FBI 17 months after speaking to this gymnast – Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney, who was not named in the report – he included statements she did not not done, according to the report.
Like other agents initially involved in the case, Langeman also failed to alert local or state officials to Nassar’s alleged abuses, violating FBI policy which states that crimes against children “invariably require a broad approach. , multi-jurisdictional and multidisciplinary “.
Langeman later said he filed an initial report on Nassar, requesting that the case be transferred to Lansing’s office as that is where Nassar was based in the state of Michigan. But the documents were not found in the FBI database, according to the Inspector General’s report.
W. Jay Abbott, a special agent in the FBI office in Indianapolis, is also no longer with the FBI, after retiring in 2018. The report says he made false statements to Department of Justice investigators and also “violated FBI policy and exercised extremely poor judgment under federal ethics rules. According to the report, he was seeking employment with the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and discussed it with Steve Penny, who was then president of USA Gymnastics Abbott applied for the job with the USOPC, but didn’t get the job – but told Justice Department investigators he never applied.
Hundreds of girls and women who were abused by Nassar are awaiting news from the FBI about the mistakes made in the case. Biles, the Olympic gold medalist, expressed his desire to know “who knew what and when” about Nassar. She won a silver medal and a bronze medal at the Tokyo Games after dropping out of team competition due to a mental health issue.
Biles will testify alongside former teammates Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, known as “Athlete A” in the Nassar case because she was the first elite gymnast to report the abuse to USA Gymnastics. That was in July 2015. The FBI’s Lansing office opened its official investigation into Nassar in October 2016.
Adam goldman contributed to Washington reporting.