Justice Department settles with Larry Nassar victims for $138.7 million

The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it has agreed to pay nearly $139 million to the victims of former U.S. team gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, settling lawsuits filed over the incapacitation of the department to investigate the allegations that could have brought the convicted child molester to justice earlier and prevented dozens of prosecutions. attacks.

One of the largest of its kind in Justice Department history, the settlement brings to an end the last major legal case in a horrific chapter in Olympic sports in this country. Nassar’s prolific abuse occurred over a period of decades at international events, including the Olympics, as well as at Michigan State University, where Nassar worked, and at local gymnastics centers from Michigan and across the country.

Once highly respected in elite gymnastics circles for his association with Team USA, Nassar allegedly committed hundreds of alleged assaults over the years, often under the guise of medical treatment. Members of several U.S. Olympic gymnastics teams have alleged abuse by Nassar, including Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney.

Nassar, 60, is serving a life sentence for federal convictions related to possession of child pornography, as well as state convictions for sexual assault of patients in his care.

A 2021 Justice Department inspector general report found that FBI agents in the Indianapolis and Los Angeles field offices failed to adequately respond to allegations against Nassar raised in 2015 and 2016.

In Indianapolis, according to the report, a senior FBI official overseeing the investigation was also applying for a job with the U.S. Olympic Committee at the time, and later lied to the inspector general’s office about the situation. In Los Angeles, the report said, officers did not alert local authorities in any of the locations where Nassar continued to groom young gymnasts while he was under investigation.

More than 70 girls and women later claimed in court filings that Nassar molested them between 2015 and his November 2016 arrest.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray publicly apologized to Nassar’s victims, and the bureau fired an agent from the Indianapolis office involved in the case.

In a press release Tuesday, the department said it had agreed to pay $138.7 million to resolve 139 lawsuits related to its handling of the Nassar case.

“For decades, Lawrence Nassar abused his position, betraying the trust of those under his care and medical supervision while avoiding his responsibilities,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer said in a statement. “These allegations should have been taken seriously from the start. While these settlements will not undo the harm Nassar inflicted, we hope they will help provide victims of his crimes with the critical support they need to continue their healing.

Tuesday’s announcement brings the total amount paid by institutions to Nassar’s victims for his abuse to more than $1 billion. In 2018, the state of Michigan agreed to pay $500 million to more than 330 victims. And in 2021, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee agreed to pay $380 million to hundreds of Nassar victims.

John Manly, the lawyer for more than 100 of the women involved in the Justice Department settlement, said in an interview that the settlement would provide closure for his clients but fell short of the criminal charges they wanted to see against the agents involved.

“For many of these families, knowing that America’s top law enforcement knew their child was being treated by a child molester and did nothing for nearly two years will always trouble them,” said Manley.

In 2021, after victims including Biles and Maroney offered heartbreaking testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department agreed to review its decision not to criminally charge two FBI agents from the Indianapolis office accused by the inspector general of having made false declarations. But the review ended with the department’s decision not to charge officers.

The Justice Department has already agreed to pay similar sums to victims of mass shootings where federal agencies were accused of negligence.

Last year, the Justice Department agreed to pay $144.5 million to the families of 26 people killed in a 2017 mass shooting in Texas, resolving allegations of failures involving the federal vetting system firearms history. In 2021, the department reached a $130 million settlement with 40 survivors and families of a 2018 shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school following accusations that the FBI failed to investigate the reports preceding the massacre.

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