July 14, 2021

By Sarah N. Lynch and David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Justice Department’s internal watchdog on Wednesday blasted the FBI for dragging its feet to investigate sexual abuse allegations it received in 2015 against disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, and accused two FBI officials of lying to investigators to cover up their mistakes.

In a scathing 119-page report, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis “failed to respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required.”

Among the numerous missteps included waiting five weeks before conducting a phone interview with one of the victim athletes, while failing to interview other victims, the report found.

Horowitz also said two FBI officials, including the office’s now-retired special agent in charge W. Jay Abbott, lied during their interviews to cover up their errors.

However, the Justice Department has declined to prosecute them, the report added.

In a statement, the FBI said: “This should not have happened. The FBI will never lose sight of the harm that Nassar’s abuse caused.”

Nassar was sentenced in federal court in 2017 to 60 years in prison on charges of possessing child sex abuse material.

The following year, he was also sentenced up to 175 years and up to 125 years, respectively, in two separate Michigan courts for molesting young female gymnasts under his care including Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney.

The inspector general’s investigation was launched in 2018 amid concerns that the FBI dragged its feet in opening a sexual abuse probe into Nassar despite receiving multiple complaints about him.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and David ShepardsonEditing by Marguerita Choy and David Gregorio)