WASHINGTON (CBS/CNN) — Olympic gymnasts Simone Biles, Ali Raisman and McKalya Maroney tore up the FBI and Justice Department’s testimony in the Senate Wednesday on how FBI agents mishandled allegations of misconduct against Larry Nassar and subsequently misrepresented the results of the failed investigation.
Maroney, Biles, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman were attacked by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Nassar, who is now serving several decades in prison.
Of the USA Gymnastics and United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, Biles held back tears, testifying: “The FBI turned a blind eye to us and went out of its way to help protect.”
Raisman, a Needham native, called for more investigation into how the Nassar investigation was misused and said the FBI was pressuring him to accept Nassar’s plea deal.
“The agent downplayed the significance of my harassment. Raisman made me feel that my criminal case was not worth pursuing,” he said.
Aly Raisman testifies about the failure of the FBI and athletic officials to investigate Larry Nassar: “The recovery of a survivor is affected by the handling of their abuse. It disgusts me that six years later we are still fighting for the most fundamental answers and responsibility.” pic.twitter.com/BMR52fwy6i
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 15, 2021
The allegations against Nassar were first brought to the agency in July 2015. Several protocol violations resulted in months of delay, as evidenced by the Justice Department inspector general’s report published in July.
As the federal investigation weakened, Nassar abused numerous victims, according to the inspector general’s report.
“FBI officials did not respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency they deserve and need, making numerous and fundamental mistakes in responding, and violating multiple FBI policies,” the report said.
Read Raisman’s full pre-Congress keynote below:
I would like to start by thanking the Judiciary Committee, including Chairman Durbin and Ranking Member Grassley, for their dedication to the search for the truth for the hundreds or even thousands of people who have been systematically abused by Larry Nassar, and for this Committee’s diligence in demanding accountability for the Federal Government. Abuse of law enforcement.
I also want to express my gratitude to the other brave survivors here today, my friends and my teammates for sharing their stories and continuing to push for justice and reform. Over the past few years, it has become painfully clear how a victim’s recovery is affected by the handling of their abuse, and it disgusts me that six years later we are still fighting for the most basic answers and responsibility.
In 2015, at least six National Team athletes were known to have been harassed by Nassar. There was even a video of an athlete being harassed. Given our abusers’ unrestricted access to children, stopping it should have been a priority.
Instead, the following occurred…
• The FBI failed to meet with interested parties in a timely manner. It took more than 14 months for the FBI to contact me, despite my numerous requests for interviews.
• According to the records, Steve Penny, FBI agent Jay Abbott, and his subordinates worked to conceal Nassar’s crimes.
• Steve Penny arranged for me to meet with the FBI at the Olympic Training Center, where I was under the control and supervision of USAG and USOPC. On the day of my interview, Steve Penny flew to the Olympic Training Center and let me know he was there.
• I felt pressured by the FBI to accept Nassar’s plea deal. The representative downplayed my harassment and made me feel not worth pursuing my criminal case.
• The special agent responsible for investigating Nassar met for a beer with Steve Penny to discuss business opportunities in the Olympic movement.
• Another FBI agent worked with Steve Penny to determine jurisdiction without interviewing survivors.
• I have seen several senior officials in the USAG, USOPC, and FBI resign or “retire” without explaining how they may have contributed to the problem; some of them were thanked for their service to the public and rewarded with severance pay or bonus money.
My abuse reports have not only been buried by the USAG and USOPC, but have also been misused by Federal Law Enforcement officers who are not performing their most basic duties. The FBI and others within both USAG and USOPC knew that Nassar was harassing children and did nothing to restrict their access. Steve Penny and any USAG employee could have taken a few steps to report to Indiana Child Protective Services since they shared the same building.
Instead, they quietly let Nassar walk out the side door, knowingly allowing him to continue his “work” at MSU, Sparrow Hospital, a USAG club, and even run for school board. Nassar has found more than 100 new victims to be harassed. It was like serving innocent children to a pedophile on a silver platter.
Why did none of these organizations warn anyone? USAG and USOPC have a long history of allowing abuse by ignoring it. Both organizations knew about Nassar’s abuse long before it went public, but you wouldn’t know it by reading the press releases that would make you (and their corporate sponsors) believe that athlete safety comes first. For years we have called for a completely independent factual investigation because I and these women sitting in front of you know these organizations firsthand and their public statements should not be relied upon. They claim to want accountability, but then try to restrict which staff can be interviewed, what documents can be reviewed, and they repeatedly demand attorney-client privilege. The so-called investigations organized by these organizations were not designed to provide the answers we critically needed.
Why are we left to guess why USAG and USOPC deliberately ignore reported abuse? Was it to preserve the value of the sponsorships? The LA28 offer? Own business? To avoid criminal liability? Maybe, but why speculate when the facts can be obtained and the stakes are so high?
Why would duly sworn Federal Law Enforcement officers ignore reports of a doctor’s abuse across state and national borders? For a future job opportunity? Or were there additional incentives and pressures? Why should we speculate when the truth can be obtained and the stakes are so high?
While it is naive to assume that the problem lies solely with Nassar, it is unrealistic to think that we can grasp the full extent of the crime without understanding how and why the USAG and USOPC have chosen to ignore the abuse for decades, and why the interaction between these three organizations has led to this situation. The FBI will willingly ignore our abuse reports. Without knowing who knows what and when, we cannot identify all enablers or determine if they are still in strong positions. We cannot solve a problem that we do not understand, and we cannot understand the problem without knowing all the facts. If we don’t do everything we can to get to these facts, the problems we are here to address will remain, and we are wrong.
We ourselves if we think that other children can escape the institutionalized tolerance and normalization of abuse that I and many others have endured.
Thank you for your time, dedication, and sincere concern for survivors who rely on the FBI to do the right thing. I welcome any questions and comments and will answer them to the best of my ability.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN’s Tierney Sneed contributed to this report.)