The Larry Nassar case: Another black eye for the FBI

Larry Nassar is the disgraced team doctor employed by USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University who is now imprisoned for sexually abusing hundreds of female gymnasts, women, and girls.  The investigation of Nassar turned up more than 37,000 images of child pornography and a video of Nassar allegedly molesting underage girls.  This evidence prompted a Michigan judge in one of Nassar's trials to say there were "over 265 identified victims and an infinite number of victims" of his sexual predation.  The abuse of one of the victims started when the girl was just six years old.

The details of Nassar's crimes are unsettling and are summarized in a section of Malcolm Gladwell's book, Talking to Strangers.

Nassar was eventually convicted in multiple courts on various charges and is now serving what amounts to a life sentence without the possibility of parole.  So has justice been served?  Not quite.  There's the role played by our illustrious Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, when suspicions of Nassar's behavior first surfaced, the national gymnastics body did its own inquiry into Nassar over a five-year span.  Having a pile of incriminating evidence, the matter was brought to the Indianapolis office of the FBI in 2015.  From this wealth of information, the FBI proceeded with its own investigation.  Incredibly, it consisted of conducting a single interview with just one gymnast whom Nassar allegedly abused, and that was done by telephone.  There the matter stood. 

In mid-2017, the WSJ started to document delays in the Nassar investigation.  Then an internal report by the Office of the Inspector General was released.  The OIG found that that single interview in 2015 wasn't even fully documented.  The WSJ story continued:

And the report says, the Indianapolis agent failed to transfer the Nassar allegations to the FBI's resident agency in Lansing, Mich., the most likely place to investigate potential federal crimes that had been committed in the area, even after they had been advised by an assistant U.S. attorney to do so and they told USA Gymnastics that they had.

Nor did the FBI contact state or local enforcement or take any other action to mitigate the risk to gymnasts whom Nassar continued to treat. 

The report details multiple false statements to internal FBI investigators by Indianapolis agents, including the special agent in charge of the office, Jay Abbott, and a supervisory agent who isn't named, dating from the earliest days of the gymnasts' complaints. 

The FBI added one lie on top of another.  The WSJ says the supervisory special agent's initial 2015 write-up of his interview with a single victim "contained materially false statements and omissions and the agent also made materially false statements when questioned later about the interview."  The OIG report also added that Jay Abbott, the agent in charge, "made materially false statement[s] during his IOG interview to minimize the errors" made by his office in handling the Nassar allegations.

Making a false or misleading statement to the FBI is a crime.  "Under 18 USC Section 1001, it is a felony to make a 'false statement to an agent or agency of the federal government in connection with a federal matter.'"  A defense lawyer might argue that sexual abuse, even on the multi-state scale that Nassar engaged in, is not a federal crime.  In any event, lying in an internal FBI investigation must be a crime, no?  But as has been amply demonstrated over the past six years, we live under a two-tier system of justice — laws are for us to obey, not for them.

And where is special agent in charge Jay Abbott today?  He's in retirement, no doubt with a healthy pension.  His lawyer says, "Mr. Abbott thanks law enforcement officers and prosecutors who brought Larry Nassar to justice.  Mr. Abbott hopes the courageous victims of Nassar's horrible crimes find peace."  If that doesn't take the cake, I don't know what does.  How much more abuse happened because of Abbott's neglect?  Not to be placated, however, many of Nassar's victims have filed lawsuits, plus they're demanding that criminal charges be brought against Abbott and the special supervisory agent.  If there is any semblance of justice left in the system, such demands will be met.

The past six years have shown that the FBI and other federal agencies are corrupt and owe their allegiance more to the ruling class than to the American people and the Constitution.  To that, gross incompetence can be added.  So tell me again: why should the FBI be respected?

Image via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

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