DOJ Seeks to Settle Claims From Victims of Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar

Posted on August 23, 2022
Kristina M. Infante Associate
Kristina M. Infante, Podhurst Orseck


More than 100 girls and women who alleged sexual assault have made claims against the FBI for failures after Nassar was reported in the summer of 2015

Larry Nassar
Larry Nassar

Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor, appeared in a Michigan court in 2018.PHOTO: REBECCA COOK/REUTERS
By Sadie Gurman
and Louise Radnofsky


Updated July 28, 2022 4:56 pm ET
WASHINGTON—The Justice Department has begun negotiations to settle claims by more than 100 women and girls of sexual assault by the former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, following multiple failings in the FBI’s handling of the case, senior Justice Department officials told senators Thursday.

The claimants are primarily women and girls who allege sexual assault by Nassar after he was reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the summer of 2015. Among them are Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman, the first elite gymnasts identified as having been abused by the then-doctor to the national women’s gymnastics team under the guise of medical treatment.

Justice Department officials this week began reaching out to lawyers for the women to begin settlement talks, Kenneth Polite, head of the criminal division, told several senators, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal, (D., Conn) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), who have long criticized the bureau’s handling of the Nassar investigation.

The department said in late May it was standing by an earlier decision not to charge the Indianapolis FBI agents who came in for the most criticism in a Justice Department report, drawing outrage from victims and some lawmakers. Mr. Polite, pressed on that decision on Thursday, told the senators that prosecutors had re-examined the case after new evidence surfaced but didn’t believe they would be able to prove criminal charges in court, according to people familiar with the conversation.

Elite gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman delivered an emotional account of FBI failures in the investigation of former national team doctor Larry Nassar, in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Photo: Saul Loeb/Associated Press
Mr. Polite, who was accompanied on the Hill by other officials from his office, also declined to give the lawmakers underlying evidence in the case that they had requested.

After the meeting, Mr. Grassley said the Justice Department was “trying to avoid accountability for its failures,” and he planned to press top officials about the case during an oversight hearing next week.
“They should provide Congress more evidence to support their prosecution declination or let a jury decide whether laws were broken, like they do for everybody else,” Mr. Grassley said.

Jamie White, a lawyer representing 13 women who say they were assaulted by Nassar following the FBI report, said he had been contacted by Justice Department officials in an email Wednesday, signaling the federal government was open to starting a conversation.

Mr. White, of the Michigan-based law firm White Law PLLC, said he planned to reply that he was open to that as well. In administrative tort claims filed against the agency in April, each of his clients are seeking up to $10 million, arguing that they were harmed by Nassar as a direct result of FBI agents’ negligence and failure to follow Justice Department procedures and policies.

“This has been an unusual case since its inception in 2015, and I think the government recognizes the extraordinary significance,” he said. “I personally, and my clients, appreciate them reaching out at least to approach the idea of a conversation.”

John Manly, a lawyer who represents more than 90 women and girls who filed claims seeking more than $1 billion in June, declined to comment.

The FBI declined to comment.

The claims all draw on a withering report released by the Justice Department’s inspector general last year that found that FBI agents in Indianapolis—who received an initial visit from USA Gymnastics to report Nassar on July 28, 2015—didn’t take the claims seriously, document the evidence they received or transfer the allegations to the FBI’s resident agency in Lansing, Mich. The report also found the agents later made false statements to cover their mistakes.

Nassar was allowed to quietly retire from USA Gymnastics, but continued to see other patients for almost 14 months after USA Gymnastics went to the FBI. He was publicly accused of assault in the fall of 2016, and by early 2018 had been sentenced to an effective life sentence in prison on sexual-abuse and child-pornography charges.

Mses. Biles, Maroney, Nichols and Raisman, who are some of the most famous figures in their sport, are each seeking $50 million from the agency, their lawyers said. That is based on the distress of both being misled about the investigation and finding out that reports of what had happened to them hadn’t been enough to protect others.

The other women and girls—some but not all of whom are identified by name—say they were assaulted by Nassar after the FBI had “credible complaints from numerous sources and corroborating evidence.” The amounts they are seeking vary.

FBI missteps have been at the center of several large settlements recently, including at least one in which victims sued citing what they said were failures by the bureau to act. The Justice Department last year agreed to pay $127.5 million to families of students and staff killed and survivors of a 2018 shooting at a South Florida high school settling lawsuits over the FBI’s failure to investigate tips warning the shooter had guns and planned to attack.

The lawyer who spearheaded that effort, Kristina Infante of Miami-based Podhurst Orseck, used an unusual path to file suit against the U.S. for basic negligence under the Federal Tort Claims Act, even though sovereign immunity usually prevents people from suing the federal government.

Unlike in the gymnast case, where the government responded quickly, she heard nothing substantive for six months. She filed her clients’ claims in 2018 and the case settled in November 2021.

“I’m very heartened to see that Parkland has created a road map,” she said. “There are facts about the gymnast case that make it in some respects stronger.”

Christopher Wray, the FBI director since 2017, said at a congressional hearing last month that the bureau has made a number of changes since the Nassar case unfolded.

“I’m determined to make it right, now that I’m here, and we’re going to make sure that everybody in the FBI learns the lessons from that tragic experience,” he said.

Mr. Polite and his staff on Thursday also suggested to lawmakers some changes in legislation that they said would improve child sex-assault reporting.

Write to Sadie Gurman at and Louise Radnofsky at
Appeared in the July 29, 2022, print edition as ‘Settlement Sought With Nassar Victims’.