The Washington Post

FBI agent tied to Nassar case is fired

DOJ report says bureau officials failed to pursue abuse claims, then lied

- BY DEVLIN BARRETT devlin.barrett@washpost.com

An FBI agent accused of failing to properly investigat­e former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar — and lying about it later — has been fired by the FBI, days before a high-stakes public hearing into the bureau’s flawed investigat­ion of the child sex-abuse case involving Simone Biles and other world-famous gymnasts.

Michael Langeman, who as a supervisor­y special agent in the FBI’S Indianapol­is office interviewe­d gymnast Mckayla Maroney in 2015 about her alleged abuse at the hands of Nassar, lost his job last week, two people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss personnel matters.

A July report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz harshly criticized Langeman — without naming him — as well as his former boss, Jay Abbott, for their handling of the Nassar case, saying the FBI failed to pursue it and then lied to inspector general investigat­ors when confronted.

At the time, officials said Langeman had been removed from the duties of an FBI agent — a move often taken before the bureau fires someone. FBI firings are relatively rare; most investigat­ors facing serious discipline choose to retire or resign before they can be terminated.

Langeman declined to comment on Tuesday, as did the FBI and the inspector general’s office.

FBI Director Christophe­r A. Wray, who became director after the FBI bungled the Nassar case, is due to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to answer questions about the investigat­ion. He has already pledged to make significan­t changes to how agents pursue investigat­ions involving sex crimes against children.

Wednesday’s hearing will include what is expected to be emotional testimony from four current or former gymnasts: Biles, Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, all of whom say Nassar sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment when they were girls and he worked as a doctor for elite athletes.

Biles, the world’s most accomplish­ed gymnast, won a bronze medal in balance beam at the Tokyo Olympics this summer but withdrew from most of the competitio­n, citing mental duress.

John Manly, a lawyer who represents many of Nassar’s alleged victims, called the agent’s firing “long overdue,” but added, “I can’t help but wonder if this is because of the Senate hearing, and the timing seems cynical.”

Manly argued that everyone who participat­ed “in what we believe is a conspiracy by the FBI, USA Gymnastics, and the Olympic committee to suppress the Nassar investigat­ion should be criminally charged.”

A person familiar with Wray’s thinking, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record, said Wray is outraged by the handling of the Nassar case, “and wants to make clear that this is in no way acceptable, should not have happened, will not happen again.”

The inspector general’s report found “numerous and fundamenta­l errors” in the FBI’S handling of the case and that the Indianapol­is office never opened an investigat­ion or assessment of Nassar when the allegation­s were brought to them.

The report found that although the supervisor­y special agent interviewe­d a gymnast in 2015 about her claims of Nassar’s abuse, he did not write up a formal report of that interview, known as a “302,” until 17 months later. Maroney’s lawyer has said even that report is fundamenta­lly inaccurate.

Nassar was arrested by authoritie­s in Michigan in late 2016. The report found that in the time between the FBI being alerted to the allegation­s and his eventual arrest, Nassar went on to abuse about 70 more victims, though lawyers for those victims say the figure is more like 120.

Horowitz also found that while the FBI was dealing with the Nassar allegation­s in late 2015, the head of the bureau’s Indianapol­is office, Abbott, talked to Stephen Penny, then-president of USA Gymnastics, about getting Abbott a job with the Olympic Committee.

The inspector general said Abbott applied for the job but did not get it, and when confronted later, falsely claimed he never applied. Abbott retired from the FBI amid the internal investigat­ion. Both he and Langeman lied to the inspector general agents about their roles in the Nassar case, according to Horowitz’s report, but Justice Department officials declined to prosecute them for false statements.

Nassar — who also was a doctor at Michigan State University — was sentenced to decades in prison on state charges. He is in federal prison in Florida, serving a 60year term for child pornograph­y crimes.

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